Nina Jacobson Hollywood Producer
Streib, Lauren, Newsweek
Byline: Lauren Streib
After Disney gave her the pink slip, she got her revenge by scooping up The Hunger Games. Now she sits on a $1 billion franchise.
She isn't the fast-talking, expletive-spewing executive one might expect, given her career. Nina Jacobson is the powerhouse producer behind one of this year's most anticipated films, The Hunger Games, but she chafes at sounding falsely modest when describing how lucky she is to work in films. When recounting how she was unceremoniously fired from her post as head of Disney's $1 billion-plus movie studio, she pauses before boiling down the ill-timed episode to the G-rated explanation: "Stuff happens."
The Disney dismissal has been a defining parenthetical in her career since July 2006, when the news was famously delivered over the phone while she awaited the birth of her third child. Though her eight years as studio head were gilded by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and The Sixth Sense, among other hits, Disney fell from the top domestic studio by ticket sales in 2003 to the fifth in 2005. She was a casualty of the company's attempt to regain share. "If you're a bullfighter, you expect to get gored periodically," says Jacobson. "You just hope that you can get up and do it again. I don't feel sorry for myself."
Since starting over as a producer in 2007 with her own company, Color Force, she's notched a few modest successes, though Hunger Games will be her first blockbuster-caliber release. Jacobson saw potential in the series before it was a bestseller, when most studio heads deemed the story too violent for a bankable franchise. When she convinced author Suzanne Collins that she was the best producer to bring Hunger Games to the screen, the young-adult series had sold fewer than 200,000 copies. The trilogy centers on a teenage girl in a dystopian America who must engage in a deadly reality show for the entertainment of a wealthy class. Its ambitious themes--the perils of war, preoccupation with wealth and fame, and our growing fascination with voyeurism--have spurred a cultural fanaticism comparable to that for Twilight, leading the books to sell nearly 24 million copies. …