BREAKING: Paramount Pictures today tapped former Twentieth Century Fox film executive Emma Watts to be President, Paramount Motion Picture Group, reporting to Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. Watts will begin her new position effective July 20th.
She rejoins Gianopulos, who was her boss for many years at Fox. Wyck Godfrey, who has been serving as president of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group since January 2018, will be stepping down and returning to his first love of producing movies and television shows.
The move makes a lot of sense, and has been in the air since Watts exited Fox shortly after it was absorbed by Disney. She stayed with the studio, working on a Fox slate of adult-themed films to go along with the Disney silos, but it wasn’t a good fit. She is a strong executive who will fare better at Paramount with Gianopulos.
Godfrey, producer of the Twilight Saga series, The Fault In Our Stars, The Maze Runner, First Man and other hits in partnership with Temple Hill principle Marty Bowen, is a strong fit to return to that life. I wouldn’t be surprised if a reunion with Bowen is in the offing. The studio has numerous franchises, but has been shuffling its slate of late. The studio stepped in to distribute the Aaron Sorkin-directed The Trial of the Chicago 7, but recently stepped out of it with a deal just closed at Netflix. Paramount was also aboard for the Martin Scorsese-directed Killers of the Flower Moon with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, but Apple came in to become lead creative partner and financier of the $180M+ film, with Paramount releasing domestically.
In Watts’ new role, she will oversee the studio’s film operations from development to release, including Paramount Pictures and Paramount Players production labels, as well as managing the creative/development group and supervising casting, physical production, post production and music. Elizabeth Raposo will continue to serve in her current role as president of production, reporting to Watts.
Said Gianopulos, “Emma is one of the most exceptional executives in the film industry. I worked with her for almost two decades during her career at Fox and have watched her become the stellar leader and creative talent she is today. As Paramount continues its evolution and growth, I am thrilled that she will deftly guide the film studio with her impeccable taste, talent relationships and innovative vision.”
“At such a rapidly evolving time in our business, Paramount’s rich history and commitment to unique and diverse storytelling make it essential in this new era of filmmaking,” said Watts. “I look forward to working alongside Jim and the rest of the talented Paramount team to continue creating an environment that not only provides stability and confidence within the industry, but also empowers the creative community to do their very best work.”
A seasoned production and studio executive with over 20 years in the entertainment industry, Watts is best known for her development, production and distribution contributions to Twentieth Century Fox (now Twentieth Century Studios) including box office hits Night at the Museum, The Greatest Showman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Martian, Deadpool, Logan, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Bohemian Rhapsody and James Cameron’s Avatar.
Watts joined 20th Century Fox in 1998 as a creative executive. In 2007, she was promoted to president of production, and later to vice chairman in 2017. At Twentieth Century Fox, Watts oversaw production for 13 years, and contributed to the culmination of Fox becoming a consistently successful studio and part of one of the largest media companies in the world.
In 2018, following the Disney-Fox merger, Watts transitioned to chief executive at the newly rebranded Twentieth Century Studios, and oversaw the production and release of Best Picture nominated Ford v Ferrari and production of the upcoming Free Guy, directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, and director Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. Not all of the final films on the Fox slate worked, including X-Men: Dark Phoenix, with Bob Iger citing those disappointing returns as a drain on Disney earnings.
Of Godfrey, Gianopulos said: “He has been an exceptional executive and a dear friend, who has helped lead us through this renaissance of the studio, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with him again in the future, and wish him continued success in his ongoing creative endeavors.”
“It’s been one of the great joys of my life to guide Paramount Pictures over the last few years,” added Godfrey, “and while I am sad to leave and will miss the day to day with the people I’ve grown to love, I can’t wait to see the future of the studio under Jim G and Emma, both of whom are rock stars in their respective jobs. And, rest assured, I have no doubt I’ll be pestering them for years to come to make my movies as a producer.”
During his tenure at Paramount, Godfrey has been responsible for overseeing a number of critical and box office successes, including Mission: Impossible—Fallout, Bumblebee, Rocketman, Sonic the Hedgehog, and The Lovebirds, among others.
Pics Godfrey oversaw for Paramount that are upcoming include A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick, Coming 2 America, Snake Eyes, Monster Problems, and Infinite, among others.
He dropped the following internal email on colleagues as the transition was taking place:
TO: Paramount Employees
FROM: Wyck Godfrey
DATE: June 30th, 2020
To My Paramount Family,
It has been such a blessing to work with all of you at Paramount Pictures, and I am so thankful for the experience and proud of the work we’ve done together. In a little over two short years, I’ve had the great pleasure of overseeing the launch of new studio franchises in A Quiet Place and Sonic, the rebirth of old franchises like Bumblebee and Snake Eyes, the continued run of the ‘Gold Standard’ that is Mission Impossible, and, perhaps most excitingly, the long-awaited returns of ‘Maverick’ and ‘Prince (now King) Akeem’. I’ve been able to work with you to champion more challenging, yet vital, films like Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, Aaron Sorkin’s Trial of The Chicago 7, and Damien Chazelle’s upcoming Babylon. I’ve laughed my ass off beside you in dailies of films like The Lovebirds and Like A Boss. I’ve jumped out of my seat with you watching the first cuts of Crawl and Pet Sematary. To say that it has been a blast and a whirlwind would be an understatement, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
While I will look back on the films we’ve made together with fondness, the thing I will carry forward in my heart and cherish most are the friendships that have been born from those films. From our incredible, diverse and intrepid employees, each of whom play a vital role in creating the warm and inviting home that is Paramount, to our talented filmmakers who trust us to nurture and share their films around the world, it’s the people who have made the experience such a joyful one.
One thing that the last four months have shown me is that change comes in the most unexpected and unprecedented ways, and we will always have to adapt to those changes in order to press on and survive. But it’s how we treat each other – our families, our coworkers, our neighbors – that will define us. While I am sad that my own time at Paramount and the momentum we were building was cut short by our shutdown in March, I am so proud of the spirit of humanity that I’ve witnessed day after day from my Paramount family during the joint crises of Covid-19 and the events following the murder of George Floyd. We have loved and supported each other. We’ve marched in protest together. And in many ways, we have grown closer together, rather than suffer in isolation. We are a family, and that is our strength.
When I came to Paramount, I was determined to make the experience fun – to bring passion, kindness, and positivity to the job. I attacked the job with fearlessness and asked the same of you, for it is my strong belief that people are the most vibrant creatively when they are not operating out of fear. I promised to celebrate your successes and wherever possible, take the burden of our failures, in exchange for your passionate advocacy of your projects.
My hope for all of you is that you continue to carry forward with that spirit to continue building the legacy of Paramount Pictures. The leadership under Jim G is strong, but the people who support and guide our leaders, through their hard work and grace under pressure, are the true strength of Paramount. All of you are in the rare position to create culture and indeed change it through the stories you tell. And I am confident that the future of Paramount is strong – because of YOU.