After 15 years as an agent at CAA, packaging such television shows as “ER,” “West Wing,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Twin Peaks,” and 10 years as a television producer of such shows as “Felicity” and “24,” Tony Krantz, 50, has begun his third act. As CEO of his production company, Flame Ventures, he’s adding feature director to his resume, fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began long before he ever worked at CAA, Imagine Television and Warner Bros. After refining skills as director on two direct-to-DVD movies for Warner Bros. Home Video — “Sublime” in 2007 and “Otis” in 2008,” both written by Erik Jendresen, who was lead writer for HBO’s miniseries, “Band of Brothers” — Krantz is now preparing to direct his first film for theatrical release, “The Big Bang,” an independent project written by Jendresen that will star Antonio Banderas.
So what’s “The Big Bang” all about?
I’d call it a neo-noir detective thriller set in the world of quantum physics. It’s Coen Brothers meets David Lynch. Ed Limato read the script, fell in love with it and gave to Antonio. He read it and loved it at first sight. We start shooting Sept. 14.
Hollywood is all about reinvention, and lots of actors have turned to directing. Bur few executives have, perhaps none who worked as an agent and as a producer. How do you explain it?
I know it’s unusual, maybe unique, like seeing your teacher out of school. For me, it’s going back to the person I always wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to be a director. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s what I always wanted to do.
Always, since when?
Third grade. Rudolf Steiner School in New York City. I wrote a paper, answering that question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I wrote that I wanted to be a director. As a child, I wrote letters to Woody Allen, Francis Coppola and Milos Foreman, asking them what it’s like to be a director. So my career hasn’t been a straight line. It’s more like a circle.
Your father Steve Krantz was a successful film producer; your mother Judith Krantz, a best-selling novelist. Which of them do you think influenced you more?
Neither. The major influence on my career was promoting concerts when I was at Berkeley. It was all about idealism, spiritualism, artistic integrity. The one with “Talking Heads” was the coolest concert that ever was.
How did “Sublime” come about?
After leaving Warner Bros., I started a company, Raw Feed, one of many projects, this one with John Shiban and Daniel Myrick. John was executive producer and writer on “X Files.” Dan wrote “The Blair Witch Project.” We had an order from Warner Home Video to do three DVD movies and saw Raw Feed as a blending of the “X Files,” for sci-fi, “Blair Witch” for horror and “24” for thriller. The idea evolved that each of us would direct one of them.
For me, I remember the moment exactly. I was in my car on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, and I was on the phone with Elyse Eisenberg at Warner (Home Video), telling her that ever since the third grade I wanted to direct. She said, “Warner Bros would approve you as director in a heartbeat.” It was like I passed through a magical gate. So I hired myself. We made the movie in 15 days, and it came out really well. John directed “Rest Stop.” Dan directed “Believers.”
Then came “Otis.”
I was just going to produce it; we were looking for another director. Couldn’t find one. So I directed. We made it in 18 days and was shown opening night of the South by Southwest Film Festival.
And now, “The Big Bang.” Does this fulfill some artistic vision you have been yearning to create?
I don’t know the answer to that. Life is a process, not a destination. Life as a director-producer is the life I wanted to live. I’m not abandoning my ability to sell, package and produce projects. It’s just the next step, moving from macro to micro, which gives me joy. The real heroes of my life are people like Mike Nichols, Coppola, the Coen Brothers. You think about their accomplishments, their artistry. I’m hoping this is an opportunity for me to make a similar contribution. “The Big Bang” is the next moment of my life as I come back to where I began, when I wrote those letters in the third grade.