OSCAR MOGULS: Ryan Kavanaugh Q&A

The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:

7 Nominations: 7 The Fighter

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: How did you first get involved with The Fighter?
RYAN KAVANAUGH: Mark Wahlberg brought us the project. It was developed at Paramount by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman and they put Mark on the project. Everybody knows there were a lot of starts and stops. When Paramount told them, ‘We’re not making the movie,’ Mark called us because we had a prior relationship with him. Effectively, the script that Paramount had developed was very dark. So we said to Mark, ‘Look, it can be a modern-day Rocky. The good news is we love the story. The bad news is we need to pay someone to rewrite it.’ Mark and David O. Russell had worked together on Three Kings and we had actually met with David a few times on other movies. So we brought David in and in a very short period we had a shooting schedule. He was not contractually given any writing credit. It went to Scott Silver. But at the end of the day David was really responsible for 90 percent of the rewrite. The budget was $50 million, and we gave him a budget of $25 million. Then, we shot the movie in 33 days. And here we are. As it stands now, Paramount put up most of the P&A for the movie and they distributed it theatrically. We actually put up most of the Academy P&A. We did a lot of Oscar advertising.

DEADLINE: So you made the decision to really push the film for awards season?
KAVANAUGH: Correct. We just really felt like we had a movie for the Oscars or whatever. It came out incredibly professional, and we felt like it delivered a message, and we felt like it had a real shot. Obviously, you know this as well as anybody, in order to really give it a shot no matter how good it is, you need to campaign. When a studio doesn’t want a movie, whoever the studio is, you always question whether they have the incentive to run that campaign.

DEADLINE: What is your feeling about the exorbitant cost of Oscar campaigning these days?
KAVANAUGH: We looked at this picture and obviously we thought it deserved the Best Picture nomination. So now you’re doing something from the heart, right? Two, there is a residual economic benefit you get from movies which are nominated. I have many nominations because of movies we were involved in: The Fighter, The Social Network, Biutiful, The Wolfman.

DEADLINE: How do you campaign for an Oscar? People say it’s all about relationships—old ones that you renew, new relationships that you forge. What do you think is the best way?
KAVANAUGH: Well, I don’t disagree with that statement. Whether it’s running for President or trying to win an Oscar, campaigning is a must and relationships are a big part of that. It’s about who you know to rally behind you. And I think to that extent a lot of the people that have been in this business for 20, 30, 40 years have a leg up on me. You know I’m 36 years old, and I’ve been in this business for like eight years, so my relationships are a lot newer. But Scott Rudin’s relationships are lengthy. Last year a lot of people couldn’t believe Brothers didn’t get more awards recognition. But I didn’t have the relationships.

DEADLINE: Who do you think has done a good campaign this awards season?
KAVANAUGH: I mean, I think The Social Network’s was incredible.

DEADLINE: Are you surprised that Inception isn’t more on people’s lips?
KAVANAUGH: Not really. You know, I think Chris Nolan is an incredibly intelligent filmmaker, and I think Leonardo DiCaprio is an incredibly talented actor. I think it’s a great popcorn movie, very cool, and very hip. Made them a ton of money.  But I don’t know if it’s a movie that you look at and go, ‘Wow, that has heart.’ To me, an Oscar movie has to have some type of emotional pull.

DEADLINE: It used to be people said an Oscar movie had to have a message.
KAVANAUGH: Well, it’s kind of the same thing. I mean, it depends on the message, but you don’t have to use your voice in order to have sex, you know what I mean?

DEADLINE: Oh, please don’t go there, Ryan.
KAVANAUGH: But whether it’s The King’s Speech that really delivers the message of taking a problem and turning it into a triumph. Or, The Social Network, which obviously was relevant about how the entire world changed and how we got there. And The Fighter, which is about overcoming the impossible. I mean those are messages and each one of those might be heartfelt.

DEADLINE: People constantly tell me that ‘Ryan really wants an Oscar.’
KAVANAUGH: Well, look, I can say this: I think people love to speculate on our business on many levels. They love to say, ‘Well, it’s just about money for him and nothing else.’ But certainly, what I think an Oscar means is that someone had a vision and the ability to see it through and get recognized by our peers and create something very special.

DEADLINE: What is your reaction to the fact that the Producers Guild, and therefore the Academy, wouldn’t give you a producer’s credit on The Fighter, which shocked everybody.
KAVANAUGH: I’m not going to comment on that at all. But when Mark Wahlberg was added as a producer, that made three producers. Everyone lobbied for a fourth, and the PGA determined that they didn’t want to add a fourth. Anyway, at the end of the day, of course I’m not happy. But I’m happy for Mark.

DEADLINE: Ryan, you sound like such a statesman. This clearly isn’t the Ryan Kavanaugh I know. I like the wild and crazy Ryan.
KAVANAUGH: Apparently a lot of other people don’t, though.

  1. if he is an oscar mogul what do u call david o selznick, louis b mayer, jack warner? oscar olympians? RK is an oscar NOMINEE

    1. RK just solidified his future. And not in a good way.

      This is so bad that it may even take a statue out of Christian Bale’s hands. Hopefully nobody’s reading this interview.


  2. really like his answers here. but looking at his ‘quotes’ on imdb, this does seem like a new ryan. i like it, if he’s being genuine.

  3. I think the charm of success of Ryan K is that he was the ‘wild & crazy’ studio head. If he diverts away to conform to what others want…he will surely fail. He needs to continue being the incredibly talented maverick some people like to knock. THIS is what will create his REAL legacy. Not a fucking gold trophy.

  4. You’re right. Its that staff he hired- michael joe and peter adee and those corporate, old school, ego maniacs that will ultimately try to have Ryan conform. They don’t like him and anti-the establishment approach. He’s going to kill his own company by having them in charge. I put money on them as the people who don’t like him ‘wild & crazy’.

  5. Could this guy be a bigger douche? I don’t know if he has a publicist or handler, but he needs a good one. Beyond the credit grabbing, he’s just so gross and every interview I read with him, he has to toss out his age. We get it already, enough. Your pyramid scheme will crumble one day.

  6. Ryan should not change his ways “wild & crazy” because his conservative, old school (well past their sell by date) execs Peter Adde and Michael JOe try to take over his company. They are clearly the reason he is being suppressed. I feel badly for him actually.

  7. i agree with you RPG. RK should feel proud of where he is at. He has gotten to where he is because he hasn’t conformed to what a studio head “should be”. Instead his anti-the establishment approach to running a company, his marketing and his process are the things that make him successful at 36! The groundbreaking Netflix deal and attracting Richard Branson. I’d watch out if i were everyone else. He doesnt really seem like he needs a little gold trophy to make it happen for himself.

  8. No offense (seriously) to Ryan. They made a terrific film and got great performances from their ensemble cast, top to bottom. But, to say that “Inception” has “no heart” is ludicrous. I’m not shilling for Chris Nolan by any stretch, but dude, c’mon! Just because a film made “tons” and was a tent pole release, don’t tell me it didn’t have heart and that Chris Nolan didn’t put his arse on the line making this thing. It could have tanked BIG TIME, but specifically because it did have heart it was embraced by me and others and who thought, “I can’t believe the studios had the balls to make a multi-layered, nuanced project like this, AND give full control to the director on this untested, $180million film!”

    Ryan must have misspoke there, or perhaps he wishes he could take that quote back, b/c it is completely untenable. Speaking of campaigning, if the studio had ANY brains they would have put a full-court press on Inception to ensure it and Chris Nolan get the major props they deserve (as much as I loathe campaigning … thanks for nothing Harvey).

  9. I want to see much more campaigning I want to see public speeches and rallies and nominee debates on TV let’s see the best actor and actress nominees debate each other they can each argue why they deserve the Oscar. The directors might wind up fist-fighting each other especially with Russell up there but that would be really good television David could challenge the other directors to a boxing match and he’d probably win he’s a tough guy. The producers might want to consider fake wrestling Harvey Weinstein would win those bouts he’s a real brawler and a bruiser.

  10. Isn’t David O Russell the director that tried to choke George Clooney (before Clooney beat his a$$) and threw temper-tantrums on I <3 Huckabees, calling Lily Tomlin a c**t among other things?

    This guy's up for Best Director but Debra Granik (Winter's Bone)and Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are Alright) were over-looked?

    Guess the academy's got something against class.

    And women.

  11. Ryan Kavanaugh says –and I quote — “So we brought David in and in a very short period we had a shooting schedule. He was not contractually given any writing credit. It went to Scott Silver. But at the end of the day David was really responsible for 90 percent of the rewrite.”

    Did Kavanaugh just throw Scott Silver (along with the other screenwriters piled onto ‘The Fighter’) under the bus? It sure looks that way. Not cool. Not cool at all. And here it is I thought Mr. Kavanaugh was a classy guy. Think again. And Ryan, for what it’s worth, the screenplay didn’t exactly set the writing world on fire, ok?

    1. He indeed did throw Silver under the bus. Regardless of how he sees it, dismissing the efforts of a nominee ON YOUR OWN FILM during the award season is really stupid and may say as much about his character as his intellect.

    1. No reason to be up in arms over RK’s comments about “Inception.” In fact A LOT of critics (and audiences) have made the point that for all its virtues, it is an emotionally hollow movie. RK is hardly a lone voice on this.

      Yes, some viewers did find it an emotionally-moving experience, but they are the minority. I mean, the emotional heart of this entire movie is Leo’s overwhelming desire to see his children…but we never even see him interact with them (oh, except a few sentences on the phone where they don’t even sound that eager to hear from him). We never even SEE THEIR faces for crying out loud. They’re plot devices, pure and simple.

      1. Sorry it couldn’t be a four-hour movie, but I still thought it packed a punch.

        For me it was about Leo and Marion’s marriage/love for one another, the tragic turn it takes, his reaction to it and how in the end, he has to come to terms with the consequences of what they set out to do TOGETHER.

        It’s rather heartbreaking. Marion Cotillard was the lynch-pin for me. And Leo was pretty damn good too.

        It doesn’t matter though. The academy’s snub of Nolan means the film doesn’t stand a chance of winning Best Picture. Especially since none of the actor’s were nominated.

        The King’s Speech Impediment will sweep the awards. Bet on it. Did you ever see Shakespeare in Love? It’s just mediocre enough for the academy.

      2. Brett,

        We don’t see their faces UNTIL THE END OF THE MOVIE. There’s a reason for that:

        1.) It shows Leo is forgetting what his own children look like, increasing his desperation to get back to them.

        2.) It tells us that he’s not dreaming at the end of the movie.

        3.) It’s not about the f**king kids. Expand your thinking a little and stop reading DIY screenwriting books.

  12. Hmmmm…. What Ryan Kavanaugh has to say here about how the script of ‘The Fighter’ got developed is very, very, VERY different from the cover story I just read in the recent edition of ‘Written By’ the guild’s magazine, which trotted out all of the writers (but certainly did not suggest that Russell did the heavy lifting in re-write).

    So it makes me wonder if the ‘Written By’ story is PR-spun BS designed to help get the film a writing Oscar. Whatever the case, I don’t think Ryan, judging from his comments here, endeared himself to Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, the three credited screenplay writers of this film.

  13. tho i cannot claim any fluency in the machinations / evolution of the script for “the fighter” kavanaugh’s wholesale (well, he gave silver 10% attribution so i guess it’s a bit more than ‘wholesale’) dismissal of a credited and nominated screenwriter was a thoughtless smooch of d.o. russell’s tuchas
    at someone else’s expense. writers beware. not feeling so sorry that rk didn’t get his producer credit but really pleased that ss has the writing credit in every way that matters.

  14. The only people who are giving his company a shot of lasting are the professionals that have come into the company recently (Michael Joe, Adee, etc.). Without people who can speak to professionalism and rationality in running the company like a business instead of an ego play, Ryan’s investors will look for the door, no bank will lend to him, and his business will last about 2 seconds longer. Not only that, without people like that in the company, Relativity as a distributor wouldn’t exist – can’t have a Netflix deal, and home video deal, a bank deal, etc. without that kind of management in a company. That isn’t to say that he can’t use his considerable personality to drive elements of the business forward, he can. But some constraints are necessary to focus his energy.

  15. I’m confused. Look at Ryan’s track record – his company has to be losing money, right? Relativity could potentially be a scheme predicated upon reporting fictional future revenue to cover current losses on the balance sheet.

  16. If anyone actually thinks Ryan is a classy guy, you’re all insane! First of all, as much as I LOVE Todd and David, they didn’t put Mark on the movie, MArk brought it to them. He had forged the relationship with the Ward’s and got the rights. Second, it was Mark who fought for David O, because of their personal and working relationship, and most of all, Ryan had very little creative input in this whole process. He financed the movie, plain and simple, just like he does with most of their films.

    That said, as much as I hate to say this, he certainly deserves all the credit in the world for having the ability to finance films, and as a community, we’re fortunate to have him, even if he is shady.

    But for him to suggest that Mark got the last producer credit is absurd, this was ALWAYS Mark’s movie, I mean the kid build a boxing ring in his home 7 years ago because of this movie, and to suggest that Mark got the credit he would have gotten is absolutely ridiculous. He is a financier, the guild and the academy know this, hence he did not get a credit.

  17. Has Ryan noticed that David Oh Russell needs the Russell Crowe Charm School cure? Brusque is an understatement. Pugilistic with the press more apt — he’s a lightweight interview tho heavy-handed.

  18. As usual, the financial “wizard” who has zero creative talent gets the kudos, the money and the interview with Nikki Finke. I read Scott Silver’s draft long before I saw the movie and it was on almost every level the same movie I saw in the theater. Guess what? Directors sometimes change dialogue before and during shooting. So do actors. You occasionally even have to change a line because of a request from a zero talent money guy like Kavanaugh. To suggest David Russell wrote 90 percent of the script is ludicrous. Last I checked, it was Silver’s script that got Russell to sign on in the first place. I can’t even believe I’m writing into this ridiculous, demeaning website that operates almost exclusively on the currency of schadenfraude. I don’t even read this crap – until someone mentioned to me that Silver was getting douched by a freak (ask anyone) director and zero creative money chump. This is news, Nikki? C’mon… talk about an ass-kissing puff piece…

  19. These comments have probably been the most insightful, well written ones yet. I guess this is what happens when you trash your writers.

  20. Who is this guy that in the past 5 years has producer credits on 50+ movies? Soon he’ll be picking up an Oscar without ever stepping onto a set. Must be a pretty smart guy. Although he dresses a little worse than Harvey Weinstein.

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