Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who is nominated as one of the producers for his musical ‘West Side Story at the Producers Guild of America awards, has said that hell never direct another musical in his career, although hell be involved as a producer on some.
He made the remarks at the annual breakfast with the nominees for the Darryl F. Zanuck Award at the Skirball Cultural Center. The theme of the panel was Spielberg.
During the conversation, the two-time Oscar-winning director for ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ said he was currently co-producing the musical adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’ with Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks in the lead roles.
He helmed the 1985 Alice Walker adaptation, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won him his first DGA prize, though he failed to score an Oscar nomination for best director.
The adoration for Spielberg and the overall gratitude from all of the nominated producers was beautifully pronounced at the event.
In response to a question about how producers can be successful and enter the business, Spielberg replied by saying: “The smartest thing I do is hire women. I always have and always will. I believe in the power of the producer. You’re not just the leaders. You are therapists. I rely on someone stronger than me to produce.”
He reflected on the challenge of getting the rights to ‘West Side Story’, going to lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s home saying: “His dogs were sniffing my crotch, and I was afraid to push them away (as) I didn’t want to offend him.”
He was able to achieve his goal sharing that this was an opportunity to keep the Romeo and Juliet story alive for another 30 years. “My favourite channels are TCM and the Criterion Channel, but they don’t get the highest ratings.”
One representative from each Producers Guild-nominated films took the stage for the in-person event – Todd Black, Philippe Rousselet, Mary Parent, Tim White, Sara Murphy, Tanya Seghatchian, Julie Oh and Spielberg, while Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Messick both appeared virtually via Zoom.
Fisher opened by thanking everyone, telling the film producers in the room that they have “prevailed”; “They tried to kill us but couldn’.”
She also highlighted the diversity of this year’s crop of producing nominees, which includes nine female producers. Fisher indicated that nearly 50 per cent of the guild is composed of women, reports ‘Variety’.
The support that was given by streaming giant Netflix was also a common talking point among its three nominated films.
Tanya Seghatchian revealed the brilliance of her producing team, especially from ‘Power of the Dog’ director and writer Jane Campion.
According to aVariety’, the rights to the Thomas Savage novel had gone through multiple hands over the past 55 years, including classic actor Paul Newman, who was going to play the lead character Phil Burbank, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the final film.
Julie Oh’s charisma shined the brightest on stage, speaking about the journey to bring composer Jonathan Larson’s stage musical: “There’s a reason there’s a Wikipedia page for development hell.”
Oh attended one of only five performances that took place in New York starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. She initially wasn’t aware of the show and was surprised the rights were available.
Kevin Messick talked about the “urgency for climate change” in ‘Don’t Look Up’ and how Adam McKay wrote the film with Jennifer Lawrence in mind.A
Most poignant was his answer for the roughest day of production; “the worst day was January 7,” referring to the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol.
Todd Black spoke about wanting to make a movie about Lucille Ball’s life in 1995, but the comedian’s children didn’t want it at the time. He also shared he knew “Aaron Sorkin was the right man to write it” regarding the eight-year journey to get the film made.
Philippe Rousselet started his opening remarks by acknowledging the strong year for movies. Discussing the journey to get ‘CODA’ made, and ultimately sold at Sundance for a record $25 million to Apple, he said: “It’s been the most extraordinary journey of my producer life.”
Mary Parent had been watching the rights for ‘Dune’ go through various hands, waiting for the right opportunity to seize the moment.
Parent almost hinted that ‘Dune: Part II’ is “not a sequel. It’s half of the story”.
‘King Richard’ producer Tim White recalled seeing the real life Richard Williams, who is played in the film by best actor frontrunner Will Smith, holding signs at a 1999 tennis match in Miami, well before he knew he wanted to make movies.
Sara Murphy talked about the story of ‘Licorice Pizza’ ruminating in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s mind for a long time.
Branagh championed his three female producers — Laura Berwick, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas — and recalled everyone’s availability during the pandemic.
He heard back from two of his stars, Caitrona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, within hours of sending them an initial email regarding the project. Branagh also recalled showing the semi-autobiographical ‘Belfast’ to his family.
“There was Tremendous uncertainty. The most difficult moment was showing this personal story about my family, to my family. My brother saying that things that I say happened to me, happened to him.”