Sony’s movie chief savors a glowing first screening of ”Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood“ at the Cannes Film Festival
WaxWord tracked down a beaming Sony Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman after the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” in May. The Cannes audience, which always loves Tarantino, gave him a lengthy standing ovation at the Palais de Festivals. But the early critical reactions were also glowing, hence the happy movie executive, accepting good wishes at the hotel rooftop after-party.
Rothman, at pains to emphasize that his studio wants to make distinctive, original films amid the rush of superhero fare and franchises, called this moment in the industry “the best of times, the worst of times.”
Here’s the conversation:
Sharon Waxman: Congratulations.
Tom Rothman: Thank you. It’s a great director, great film. That’s what happens more often than not. We firmly believe that there is room for originality. It’s not easy, with all the sequels and super heroes. And God knows, we’re grateful for it. It’s a big part of our slate. We’re going to fight for originality too. It’s important that big studios not let that go extinct.
Also Read: 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Film Review: A Contemplative Quentin Tarantino Still Blows the Roof Off Cannes
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
How do you continue to nurture that? Quentin is somewhat unique — his recent movies have done really well. This feels like a hit. And he wins Oscars.
He’s what we would call in Silicon Valley, a unicorn.
How do you duplicate that?
You don’t. There’s no duplicating Quentin Tarantino. What you need to do is try to look for projects that can have cultural relevancy and cultural impact. Look at “Get Out.” It’s a first-time filmmaker. It’s a really inexpensive budget. I admire it tremendously.
Everyone wants a “Get Out.”
It’s not based on anything but his (Jordan Peele’s) idea. It can be done, but you have to commit. And I’ll tell you what, you’re going to stumble sometimes. You can’t do it and take risk out of the business. What we try to do at Sony is have a really balanced slate. We have a lot of IP [intellectual property]. A lot of regenerated IP, more IP that we’ve had in a long time. We have “Spider-Man,” the “Zombieland” sequel and a “Jumanji” sequel, which is a sequel to a $900 million movie. “Men in Black.” We have a lot of IP. That’s your base.
But you want to make some bets.
Yes, try. If you believe, as we do, that there is a place for originality in the movie theaters.
Also Read: Cannes Struggles for Relevance in Shrinking Movie Business
Does that mean giving final cut?
Not necessarily. Quentin Tarantino is a final cut director, but I think final cut is a vastly overrated creation in the sense that 99 times out of 100, who has final cut is the audience. You’re going to have to test for the audience. Most directors know that.
What’s your marketing plan for this film?
Our marketing plan is high, wide and handsome. We have two of the biggest if not the biggest stars in the world, then a third wonderful actress in it. We have three big stars and a fun movie.
Do you think this would be up for an Academy Award campaign?
I would not presume to prognosticate.
Do you have a sense if you want to support it that way?
Sure, we’ll support it. But it’s very early days. I wouldn’t be presumptuous.
What do you think about the business right now?
It’s a tale of two cities. It’s – best of times and worst of times. There are large conglomerate forces operating in the streaming area. But the flip side is also true. Our content is really valuable right now. We are still investing heavily. It’s been the case that our content the last two years has been successful. That is pretty valuable out there in the world.
One of your competitors just went away (Fox), but one of your competitors just got super-sized (Disney). Do you feel like it’s harder to compete, or do you just stay in your lane?
They are a big, great company. I feel like it’s always hard to compete. But there are opportunities for us. We are in the theatrical business. When you have success theatrically, then the downstream value right now is very strong. It’s very strong right now. I just got interviewed for something, and they asked, “What do you see in 10 years?” And actually, I really don’t have an answer. I feel like a dumbass, more than I do every day. (Laughs.)
Sharon Waxman, is the founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of TheWrap. She is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, and was a Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times. Twitter: @sharonwaxman