Oscars season is upon us, and you can almost smell the celluloid wafting on the Winter’s breeze. We caught up with a certain legendary Hollywood producer-mogul, relaxing in a rare moment of calm as he campaigns for the various Oscar-hopeful movies distributed by his company. His name was not recorded in the copy that was filed, and our interviewer was tragically killed later that afternoon – before he could be reached for clarification. His family have requested that this final piece be reproduced in the form it took at the exact moment of his death.
How are you and what are you doing?
I’m in Santa Monica, it’s snowing, freezing cold and for some unfathomable reason, I’m about to walk down the street to my office. Other than that, I’m alright.
Your new film, What Happened Down There, is the company’s first animation, right?
The first one we’ve made from scratch, yeah. Funnily enough, it’s about two brothers who squabble all the time. I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course [possible irony…so he has a well-known brother?! –Ed]. One of the brothers is a larger-than-life action hero who gets sent to another dimension, where he’s crowned a king, so the quieter brother has to go and murder him. Every weekend, my four sisters insist I drive them to the theatre. I decided to make a film they’d hate, because they normally like my movies. Now they’ve finally moved out.
Sorry, I zoned out just then. Could you repeat that please?
Yeah, I love that element of these films. The script pokes fun at other movies, like Ocean’s Eleven and Tin Cup, plus people like Jonah Hill and Whoopie Goldberg, so it’s really smart.
Simon Callow also pops up. How did he react?
We take the piss out of Simon so much, I felt guilty, so I called him up to warn him. He said: “I want more! It should be more of a piss-take, if that’s what you want! Please, no more fingers – she’s only a child!” So I guess he’s happy. There’s a line where the brothers say: “Simon Callow, it is time for you to die.” It might come to that, you never know. But it’s all a spoof and it’s been so successful, we’re making a sequel.
What will the sequel be about?
It will focus more on the inside of Simon’s home in Cheshire, England. They’ll all wear full-coverage balaclavas, and I’m trying to get permission to film it without his consent or knowledge.
Are you a bit of an Anglophile?
I love British humour. Did you ever see the third episode of Life’s Too Short? You Brits are amazing.
You have an honorary CBE in recognition of the uses to which you’ve put British film. What do you think of the state of our industry?
You’ve got talented executives making intelligent movies that are also commercial. In the Oscars, you’re represented right across the board, in the acting categories, directing, everything. Plus, you do exactly what I tell you, and never even seem to realise it. So, there’s that.
I’m sorry, I can’t seem to get the cap off these. Do you want one?
Why are you offering me one if you can’t even get the cap off?
You’ve done well in recent years. Is it a lot more fun when you’re winning?
You know what? It’s more fun when you have a great attitude, and I’ve got a great attitude. I have so many friends who are up for stuff, so many pals of mine. We’re going to have a good time – and whoever wins will work for me, or die. Professionally die, I mean. That’s the important thing.
What do you make of that stat about 30% of Oscar winners thanking you in their speeches, and only 7% thanking God?
Are you fucking looking at me in the eyes, right now? Get your eyes down on the ground, where they belong. Now fall to your knees. Down. Down. Further. That’s good. Now stay there.
Please…so…tell us about The Games of Enchantment, your forthcoming film about…cinematographer Ben King. You paid a record sum of $7m for the US rights? [wrote in his own pauses…what was he trying to tell us?! –Ed]
Yes I did but I saw 20 minutes of footage and it confirmed my belief that the script was great. Ben’s performance is unbelievable. He blew me away. It’s slated for a New Year release and I can’t wait.
You’re a long-time collaborator with Paul McCartney who recently shelved his next album after a leak. Do you support his decision?
Yes I do, 100%. There seems to be some notion nowadays that work should be available for free, be it scripts, music, creative writing, journalism. How can young artists support themselves in that climate? These are people’s livelihoods. There’s such a disregard for artistic content. People have to wake up and realise this isn’t free, it isn’t the property of the internet, this is a man’s work, please respect it. Unless you purchase the distribution rights to it, of course. In which case you own not only the work, but also the man.
How do you…think film compares with TV?
They’re interchangeable now. Television has become very exciting and the multi-channel universe is great. You can’t tell stories like Derek in two hours. TV gives you the luxury of telling stories properly. We’re very much getting into television. I’m developing a reboot of Hollyoaks with the BBC and you need 10 hours to do it justice. We also started shooting people at Pinewood’s Malaysia studio three years ago. They shut the place down, but it never got used for anything else. The locals have started to say it’s haunted.
Are you aware that Peter Capaldi partly based his Malcolm Tucker character in Doctor Who on you?
I heard that for the first time recently. He doesn’t know me but damn, it’s funny. I guess it’s based on his image of me, rather than actually me, but as long as I can serve the British television industry, I’m happy. [a crude drawing on the page here, perhaps trying to convey his facial expression? it shall haunt me the rest of my days –Ed]
Is it true you stopped eating M&Ms and it calmed you down?
Yep. There are so many books about sugar and its toxic effect on people, so I gave up Diet Coke and M&Ms. I discovered I was a teddy bear instead of a grizzly bear. My wife walked out two weeks later – but she had a few new duelling scars to show off before reaching the front door, let’s put it that way.
Did you promise to make One Direction‘s Harry Styles a movie star if he dates your daughters?
They do like him, and Harry had obviously done very well in the dating department. He laughed about it and my daughters saw the funny side too. Then they noticed I wasn’t laughing. And then it actually happened. And it’s going to keep on actually happening, if any of them ever wants to see the light of day again.