What makes the world go ‘round in Hollywood? Is it the actors or the directors that create and have crafts that are so special? No, rather it is the producers that keep everything in motion. They are the ones who are responsible for everything financial that go on in the movie. Without them, we would have no fine pieces of cinema. Let me fix that; we would have very poorly made movies. So poor that Gigli would be like Casablanca.
So which few are the best of the best? There are incredible greats like Frank Marshall (Paper Moon), Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down) and Scott Rudin (Notes on A Scandal)(1). However, what this list needs are bigger characters. This list needs people who create their own studios and create something beautiful out of their first year. So this list would exclude DreamWorks, for my personal reasons of extending the Shrek franchise past two movies.
Here are just a few determined by myself and by other insiders (2) as to which 10 producers are the best:
10. Bob Weinstein
Best Known For: Producing Playing for Keeps (w/Harvey Weinstein), Reindeer Games, Bad Santa, and being the quiet half of the Weinstein brothers. Quiet doesn’t mean passive!
- Through partnering with his older brother, Harvey to create one of the most critically acclaimed studios of the latter 20th Century, Miramax.
- Both brothers have a passion for film, and named Miramax after their parents; Miriam and Max.
- Unlike Harvey Weinstein, he is the quieter and level minded brother making Miramax and later The Weinstein Company one of the largest and powerful distributors in the industry.(3)
9. Harvey Weinstein
Best Known For: Producing The Thin Blue Line (Miramax), Nine, Sex, Lies and Videotapes (Miramax), Shakespeare in Love, Gangs of New York, The Burning and being the more aggressive half of the Weinstein brothers.
- As stated above, Harvey and Bob Weinstein are the creative forces behind Miramax and now The Weinstein Company.
- Garnered a reputation for editing Asian movies to make them “more viable.”
- Outspoken and more public-minded than his brother and business partner he has come to the aid of Roman Polanski by means of voicing disapproval of Polanski’s extradition. (4,5)
- Has also garnered a reputation for being brash and abrasive, (6,7) and for also running being one of the biggest Hollywood ogres in the industry.(8)
8. Michael Balcon
Best Known for: Producing Woman to Woman, being a part of the British New Wave, Giving Alfred Hitchcock his start and Ealing Studios.
- Entered the industry as a regional distributor in 1919, and in 1921 co-founded Victory Motion Pictures with Victor Saville.(9) This was after his service in World War I.
- Backed some of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier works.(10)
- Was the head of Ealing Studios when the Ealing comedies were shot.(11)
7. Dino De Laurentiis
Best Known For: Bitter Rice, La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, Barabbas, Barbarella, Death Wish, Mandigo, Three Days of the Condor, Ragtime, Conan the Barbarian, Blue Velvet, King Kong, Flash Gordon, Dune, The Dead Zone, Army of Darkness, Manhunter, Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising.
- Grew up in Italy, and sold spaghetti for his dad until he decided on impulse to enroll at the city’s film school, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia as an actor. He found out he liked producing quickly.(12)
- After serving in World War II, he worked for Rome’s biggest production company, Lux. (13)
- Invested in both successful films and duds, as clearly shown as above. His work included most of the Hannibal Lecter franchise, La Strada and Conan.
- Was the predecessor for difficult producers; he recut Nights of Cabiria without the director’s knowledge and it took the Oscar for best director. (14)
6. Sam Spiegel
Best Known For: Producing On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Laurence of Arabia, maintaining a connection with Israeli politicians like Golda Meir and Ariel Sharon.
- Started out as a translator, translating movies in Europe.
- Worked under a pseudonym, S.P. Eagle and fled Berlin when Adolf Hitler rose to power. (15)
- Used the casting couch quite liberally to cast actresses in his movie Chase. He hadn’t been able to do this in his other movies, The Bridge on the River Kwai or Laurence of Arabia since they had been all-male casts. (16)
5. Walt Disney
Best known for: Walt Disney Studios, Snow White, Disneyland, Walt Disney World
- Got his start in animation not only because of enjoyment but also out of sheer survival.
- Created Mickey (originally named Mortimer) Mouse to replace Oswald.
- Had gone through the ringer in the following ways:
- Lost his original studio, Laugh-O-Grams to bankruptcy.
- Lost most of his rebuilt animation staff after Universal head Charles Mitz had forced him out due to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s success.
4. Arthur Freed
Best known for: Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Gigi
- Wrote material for vaudeville and eventually wrote material for the Marx Brothers.
- Was an uncredited producer for The Wizard of Oz.
- Got his big break in Babes in Arms, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
- His ability to bring Broadway talent to Hollywood and his knack to shape the careers of Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and bringing Fred Astaire out of semi-retirement to star with Judy Garland in Easter Parade.
3. Jack Warner
Best known for: Warner Brothers, Blacklisting Hollywood, My Fair Lady and Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
- Sam Warner convinced his brothers to pool their money and move into film production in 1910, after moderate success in vaudeville and amusement parks.
- After Sam’s passing, Jack was shrewd (or rather low enough) to secretly buy out his brothers’ shares after convincing them to sell.
- He was a staunch Republican, which is probably why Hollywood prefers to dance on his grave.
- Was a serial cheater on his wife.
2. Samuel Goldwyn
Best known for: Paramount, Goldwyn Pictures
- Grew up in Poland and left Warsaw on foot and penniless.
- Partnered with his brother-in-law Jesse L. Lasky, Cecil B. DeMille and Arthur Friend to found what would eventually become Paramount Pictures.
- Partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, changed his name to Goldwyn from Glbfisz.
- Lost his original studio, Laugh-O-Grams to bankruptcy.
- Their lasting icon was “Leo the Lion,” but was never a part of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) because he was already forced out by then.
1. Robert Evans
Best known for: Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown.
- He got his start as an actor, he was cast as Pedro Romero in an adaptation of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises against the wishes of both Ernest Hemingway and Ava Gardner.
- Left acting due to being dissatisfied, not because of a lack of talent and turned to producing.
- Became head of Paramount and produced such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Odd Couple, The Italian Job, Love Story, Barefoot in the Park and The Great Gatsby.
- Still produces as one of his more recent films is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and produced and starred in the TV series Kid Notorious.
“Top Ten Most Successful Producers of all Time” written by Guest Writer James Valdez of Scripted.com
1. “The Top Ten Greatest Film Producers.” http://www.the-top-tens.com/lists/greatest-film-producers.asp. Accessed on 27 June 2011.
2. “Top Ten Producers of All Time.” http://www.film4.com/features/article/Hollywood-players-top-ten-producers. Accessed 27 June 2011.
3. “Bob Weinstein.” http://www.fandango.com/bobweinstein/biography/p116276. Accessed 27 June 2011. By Jason Buchanan.
4. Kay, Jeremy. “Thierry Fremaux enlists Harvey Weinstein in Polanski petition”, Screen Daily, September 28, 2009.
5. Leonard, Jack (2009-10-06). “Top L.A. prosecutor disputes statements from Harvey Weinstein, other Roman Polanski supporters”. Los Angeles Times.
6. Finke, Nikki. “Harvey Weinstein’s Offer I Can’t Refuse…” Deadline Hollywood, September 29, 2008.
7. Mnookin, Seth. “How Harvey Weinstein Survived His Midlife Crisis (For Now)”, New York magazine, October 4, 2004.
8. Lurie, Rod. “Harvey Weinstein Gets My Criticism of “The Reader” Wrong” The Wrap, February 21, 2009
9. “Balcon, Michael (1896-1977).” http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/447085/index.html. Accessed 27 June 2011.
12. Lane, John Francis (11 November 2010). “Obituary: Dino De Laurentiis”. The Guardian. Retrieved 11 November 2010. Accessed 27 June 2011.
14. Mondello, Bob (11 November 2010). “Dino De Laurentiis: For Decades, A Big-Picture Guy”. NPR. Retrieved 11 November 2010. Accessed 27 June 2011.
15. “Sam Spiegel.” http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0818545/bio. Accessed 27 June 2011.