Hey, Big Spender: Hollywood Isn’t in the Mood
By BROOKS BARNES and MICHAEL CIEPLY
Published: August 28, 2010
Joel Silver’s office at Warner Brothers was built for Frank Sinatra in 1963. Mr. Silver refurbished it and has settled in.
JOEL SILVER stands on the Warner Brothers lot and points to the remnants of a house where he filmed parts of four “Lethal Weapon” movies. “We blasted a toilet out of that window,” he says, smiling proudly. “Over there, we drove a car straight into the living room.”
Ah, the glory days.
Behind Mr. Silver, the flamboyant producer of some of the biggest action hits of the last 30 years, is the modest set for one of his current films, an R-rated comedy with no stars, almost no budget and — for now — no title. Not that Mr. Silver was ready to call the production small. “It’s a little movie, but it’s a big little movie,” he says.
And therein lies Mr. Silver’s challenge: How does a larger-than-life, free-spending producer fit into a movie business that has been tightening up — and cutting some of its more grandiose characters down to size?
In the new Hollywood, stars count for less, whether in front of the camera or behind it. Financial firepower and technological wizardry matter more. And a generation of producers — whose principal assets were their industry connections and a remarkable degree of personal force — are having to adapt.
Mr. Silver, 58, has been a dominant studio moviemaker for over three decades, delivering blockbuster franchises like “Lethal Weapon,” “Die Hard” and “The Matrix.” The 59 movies he has produced have generated almost $10 billion in ticket sales, adjusting for inflation. The money he has made for Warner alone has won him lavish treatment from the studio — not just in compensation, but also in perks. To make him happy, Warner once went so far as to send movie props to his Brentwood mansion for his son’s birthday party.
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