One of only six producers to win Best Picture and a top series Emmy, Mark Johnson tells TheWrap that he's gunning for the Nobel next
“Breaking Bad” producer Mark Johnson won his first Emmy at the Nokia Theater on Sunday night, but he wasn't a stranger to standing on the stage of an awards show as the night's last victor.
Johnson (far right in photo above) did the same thing 24 years ago at the Academy Awards, when he won the Best Picture award for producing “Rain Man.”
“I had the same feeling on Sunday night that I had when ‘Rain Man’ won the Oscar – looking out at the audience and thinking, What am I doing here?'” Johnson told TheWrap this week.
Winning an Oscar for Best Picture and an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series or Comedy Series isn't a glamour combo like the rare Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony grand slam known as the EGOT, but it's actually a rarer accomplishment: While 11 people have won the EGOT, most recently producer Scott Rudin, only five previous producers have shepherded both the year's best picture and its top drama or comedy series.
James L. Brooks was the first to do so, winning Outstanding Comedy Series Emmys for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Taxi” before taking the Best Picture Oscar for “Terms of Endearment.”
Since then, Brian Grazer won the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy for “24” in 1996, followed six years later by the Best Picture Oscar for producing “A Beautiful Mind” – and his producing partner Ron Howard joined him in 2004 when their comedy series “Arrested Development” won the top comedy-series Emmy.
And after Ed Zwick and Paul Haggis both won the top drama-series Emmy for producing “thirtysomething,” they each won Best Picture awards – Zwick for “Shakespeare in Love” in 1999, Haggis for “Crash” in 2006.
If you open it up to include Emmys for producing the Outstanding Miniseries or Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie, you can add Steven Spielberg (an Oscar for “Schindler's List,” Emmys for the miniseries “The Pacific,” “Band of Brothers” and “Taken”), Sydney Pollack (an Oscar for “Out of Africa,” an Emmy for the TV movie “Recount”) and Branko Lustig (Oscars for “Schindler's List” and “Gladiator,” an Emmy for the miniseries “Drug Wars: The Camarena Story”).
So depending on how you run the numbers, Johnson, whose other films include “Diner,” “The Natural,” “Bugsy,” “A Little Princess” and “The Notebook,” is either the sixth producer to land the twofer, or the ninth.
He told TheWrap he didn't even think about the accomplishment until his son pointed it out – he'd been too busy trying not to dwell on awards, in an attempt to avoid the pressure that comes from going into the Emmy ceremony as the odds-on favorite to win.
“I did a pretty good job of not thinking about it until that night,” he said. “And when we lost for writing and directing, and Bryan [Cranston] and Aaron [Paul] lost, it started to look a little bleak. I thought, ‘Perhaps this isn't our year.'”
Johnson began working in TV after his first movie, “Diner,” which he executive produced and from which he and Barry Levinson made an unsuccessful pilot. But he didn't fully embrace the medium until 1998, when CBS chief Les Moonves invited him to come to the network, and he began with the series “L.A. Doctors.”
Johnson also produces the Sundance Channel series “Rectify,” and with the assistance of his Gran Via Productions’ head of television, Melissa Bernstein, will produce the new “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” and the new Vince Gilligan show “Battle Creek,” which he and Gilligan first pitched CBS 11 years ago.
“Feature producers today almost have to be doing TV,” Johnson said. “If you want to do serious drama, it's really on television, both network and cable.”
As for his new golden twofer, he figures “it speaks to resilience more than anything else.” And while he's aware that Scott Rudin is the only producer to have an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy, he has no plans to enter the fields of Broadway and recording to win his own EGOT.
“Scott has the EGOT, and I know I'll never be able to get those other two awards,” he said. “So I'm gonna go straight for the Nobel Prize.”