EXCLUSIVE: Studio moguls often come into their jobs roaring like a lion. But then they leave like a lamb. Such was the case when a kinder and gentler Tom Rothman came back onto the Fox lot this week for his on-the-downlow swan song held at the Fox commissary. “It was very warm and cordial and packed with a ton of people,” one insider tells me about the goodbye party Monday night. An estimated 250-300 invitation-only guests ate and drank in honor of Rothman, who was ousted in that September 14th studio shakeup and left the lot on October 12th. Those there were mostly Fox film employees, but also (in random order) Ridley Scott, Aline Brosh McKenna, Bart Walker, Bryan Lourd, Dave Wirtschafter, Hutch Parker, Jim Mangold, Lili Zanuck, Mark Gordon, Peter Farrelly, Peter Chernin, Lauren Shuler Donner, Robert Newman, Simon Kinberg, John Davis, and Peter Rice. Rothman’s longtime Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos — now solely chairman/CEO of Twentieth Century Fox Film — spoke first about their time together and all that they went through in their daily business. Like how Gianopulos came up with a signal in meetings to get Tom to stop talking (more like quiet down) by pulling on his ear. Jim said he noticed one day that his earlobe was longer than the other from tugging on it so much that he simply had to stop. Then, with a “gracious” nod to Rothman’s career slate of movies, Gianopulos introduced a reel. contd.
After, Gianopulos called up senior staff (presidents, etc) and Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler spoke on their behalf “emotionally” about Rothman. She showed one of the leather-bound scripts they presented him as a gift from all the films he had worked on during his 18-year tenure. Then the assembled group “raised a glass together and toasted him”. With that, Rothman spoke to the assembled group. As always, he was very articulate and intelligent but also “warm and witty and self-deprecating”, said one of my sources. Described another, “Nice speech. It was nostalgic, sad, but classy to the end”. Naturally, there were lots of inside jokes. In a town where a new Mercedes is de rigeur for movie moguls, everyone on the Fox lot knows Rothman has driven a Lexus SC coupe dating back to the 1990s. “He said that this would probably shock a lot of people – but he’d got a new car. That’s unlike Tom.”
Rothman had packed up his Fox office a month after he was canned while the moving vans waited. Now he has not one but two offices — one out of Dreamworks Studios as he produces Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse, and another permanent space he rented at Sony’s Columbia Pictures. But at Monday night’s party, many of the guests were quietly wondering where Rothman might land next. As one of the attendees told me, “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him running a studio.”