For the final act of the PGA’s first New York Produced By confab, Harvey Weinstein took a career tour from his life-altering teenage encounter with Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows through some shots he’s he’s received for releasing the next installment of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in theaters and on Netflix. There was even an eyebrow-raising revelation when the Weinstein Company co-chairman (with brother Bob) admitted that during the 1994 Oscar best-picture race, “I voted for Schindler’s List over my own film The Piano.”
Weinstein said that best-picture Oscar winner The English Patient had been his greatest challenge as a producer and clarified a longstanding tit-for-tat over the producing credits of Shakespeare in Love. When he mentioned that there had been five producers on that film, an audience member shouted “Seven!” That led to the Weinstein’s explanation that original screenwriters Edward Zwick and Marc Norman “were to be the designated producers and made enormous contributions” before the film went into production. “But they were never on the set,” he said pointedly, “and never did anything in the producer sense.” The PGA became involved in limiting producer credits and it was five producers who took hoe the Oscar.
When asked by the moderator what kind of producer he wanted to be, Weinstein responded, “I read Hollywood Rajah by Bosley Crowther” as well as biographies and autbobiographies of David O. Selznick and others. ” I wanted to be a creative producer. I see so many of my fellow producers save movies, I think there should be a C-PGA for creative producers. Whenever it’s brought up that there are producer mistakes, it’s amazing it’s not brought up that there are director mistakes.”
Talking about the uphill battles with The English Patient, Weinstein said another studio had it before him. “I wanted Kristen Scott Thomas. Anthony Minghella knew her. The movie shot was on a string; it almost disappeared. It was that close.” When it came to getting around the original attached stars of the film, Weinstein says, “I turned the film over to Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane and they were amazing.”
Regarding the criticism waged by exhibs over the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneous release on Netflix and in theaters, Weinstein responded to the day-and-date debate by saying, “The deal was for the film to play in IMAX, it wasn’t going to play regular theaters. I know a lot of people want to watch it on Netflix.” He further added, “Sometimes you have to pay retail as my grandmother used to say. And sometimes it’s Happy Texas, I paid $10 million for the film and it grossed only $2 million.”
Further expounding on the power of the small box, Weinstein exclaimed, “The great boom today is in television…You have 1o hours to tell a story? Wow. And the deal is to find great writers.”
Weinstein hat-tipped Megan Ellison’s great work on producing Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster and joked that he loves directors’ cuts because they “make me look a genius.” During Martin Scorsese’s epic Gangs of New York, Weinstein recalled, “I told Marty that when all is said and done I want you to show the 3 hour, 36 minute version and Marty responded, ‘Fuck you! This is the director’s cut!'”
A sizzle reel of Weinstein’s greatest hits kicked off the session with clips from Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech, St. Vincent and Begin Again. After giving props to the Radius-TWC doc on Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, Weinstein told the crowd about where his love of cinema had started. “Sex drove me to the movies and art kept me there,” said Weinstein revealing that the first film he embraced as a teenager was The 400 Blows when he and his brother caught at an arthouse in Queens.
Talking about the subject of retirement, and what his own fade-to-black might be, Weinstein quipped, “I would like to run a small Caribbean nation.” But he added, smiling beatifically, “I’m not competitive. I just sing ‘Kumbaya.’ “