Return of “the Punisher”
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein on how he got his career back on track.
This staggered approach extends to how the films are advertised. Streep says: “When I first came to the office after The Iron Lady was finished, they showed me a poster for the film. I went insane because it was so good. But Harvey said, ‘No, we’re going to hold off.’ ” He wanted to use it at a later stage of the film’s release for the biggest possible impact.
Weinstein calls this having to “baby” a film – nurturing it, adding screens slowly, tweaking the marketing and allowing buzz to build. He recalls City of God, the 2002 Brazilian film about life in the favelas of Rio. It was a critical rave but initially struggled to find an audience. “People would say, ‘It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!’ I would say, ‘Really? So why is nobody seeing it?’
“Then I realise, OK, I can have the best looking ads but you know what’s going to work? Tenacity and word of mouth.” So Weinstein kept City of God in some cinemas for 72 weeks, an astonishing time in an age when some films barely last a month. “You know what? It got nominated for four Academy awards, won three and everyone’s seen it now.” He was about to release the film on DVD when he got a call from Russell Crowe. Weinstein puts on an Australian accent. “He said, ‘Mate, that’s the best movie I’ve ever seen.’ Russell makes that call and that was another 12 weeks in theatres.”
Of course, Weinstein does not need to “baby” every film to make it a commercial success. The company’s slate for 2013 is packed with movies that could support a wide release as they feature the kind of A-list stars that will attract a big audience: Brad Pitt as a mob enforcer in Cogan’s Trade, and the return of Quentin Tarantino with Django Unchained, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. “It’s Quentin’s greatest script,” enthuses Weinstein. “It’s not even close to his other movies.”
DiCaprio plays a villain in the film and I ask why the star seems to miss out on awards recognition, most recently with J. Edgar , which failed to earn him an acting nomination despite fantastic reviews. “He’s definitely getting nominated for this one,” says the master Oscar campaigner, back where he belongs in the heart of the action. “Trust me. Leave DiCaprio to me.”
This article originally appeared in Financial Times. Click here to read more coverage from the Weekend FT.
Matthew Garrahan is the FT's Los Angeles correspondent.