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.