Movie Moguls Speak: Interviews with Top Film Producers

By Broderick, Suzanne | Film & History, July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Movie Moguls Speak: Interviews with Top Film Producers


Broderick, Suzanne, Film & History


Steven Priggé. Movie Moguls Speak: Interviews with Top Film Producers. McFarland, 2005. 231 pages; $39.95.

Unsung Heroes

Steven Priggé asked sixteen different film personalities the same question: "What do you do as a producer?" In one interview, Scott Mosier responded, "I am sure that this book will reflect that different producers do different things." Indeed. However, what nearly all of them agree on is that producers do not get the credit they deserve. They are the unsung heroes of the movie business. They are Dustin Hoffman's character in Wag the Dog-the 1997 film directed by Barry Levinson.

The legendary Dino De Laurentiis describes his role as, "the most exciting part for me is the creative side of producing. The producer is, in reality, the soul of the movie. The producer is the one who chooses the script. He chooses the screenwriter. He chooses the director, the cast. You could write a whole book on my experiences with War and Peace. The casting of Audrey Hepburn was inspired." Rocky producer Robert Chartoff had to fight for Stallone, who insisted on writing and starring. Chartoff added another aspect of producing, "As far as making the picture, the release of the film, the trailers, promoting it and the movie posters-oh yes, I am heavily involved." What doesn't a producer do?

Lauren Schuler Donner-Mr. Mom, Dave, You've Got Mail-started as a camerawoman. She feels her job is to find the material, work with the script, attract a director and a studio to finance. Once production starts, "I am there to solve problems . . . come up with an idea to make the film funnier or go faster. At the end of the shoot, I get involved in the cutting room and with the editing, music and video effects, marketing and distribution. To be successful, you have to wear many hats" It sounds as if Donner wears every hat in the millinery shop.

Lawyer-turned-producer Michael Phillips got a lot of heat from the studio during the making of Taxi Driver. He was running over schedule; he assured them he was back on track-"You have to lie to them." Philosophically he added, "A producer's job is to have a sense of what is important and what is not." One of the more interesting facts is Phillip's interview and concerns about Taxi Driver: "The most famous line in the movie, 'Are you talking to me?' is not in the script. It is purely an ad lib by Robert De Niro." When speaking of this photodrama, he recalled, "I felt it was my baby, I bled for that film to get made." Bleeding? Is there nothing that a producer doesn't do? However, Phillips, echoing others, stated "the producer does not get much credit for the motion picture."

Martin Bergman managed Al Pacino. One day Bergman read an article in New York Magazine about police officer Frank Serpico. …

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