EXCLUSIVE: Charles Finch (Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love) is as English as they come, but Hollywood runs through his veins. Having written movies, produced a few, directed three; managed movie stars and built brands, and published high-end cultural magazines, he decided “smack in the middle of Covid, in my late fifties,” that he wanted to go back to making movies.
He has set up a small film company that he calls STANDALONE. Finch has a relationship with Columbia Pictures and he’ll formally announce a development deal with that studio next month. The entrepreneur also has a project with Netflix.
Finch told us that he has a slate of some 15 to 20 projects. Included in his group of filmmaking collaborators are directors Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots), Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Marina Zenovich (Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind), Simon Curtis (Downton Abbey: A New Era), and Florian Zeller (The Father).
Finch described himself as a “really old-fashioned impresario, quite good at spotting talent,” and he wants to use that insight to get films made. His view is that studios made a mistake in cutting back on producer deals. “I think it’s a mistake because you under-power the studio, then the director is the producer, the actor is the producer… well how do you get anybody to actually do the work?
“The actor can only do a limited number of movies they’re developing, the director can only do one movie every two years, so you don’t really have a pipeline to fill your studio,” he argued.
Finch’s father, the Academy Award-winning actor Peter Finch (Network) was at Columbia, that’s why it’s an important relationship for him. “I have a real passion for that studio,” he told Deadline, just as passionately, over a breakfast of fresh smoked salmon, at the ultra swanky Hotel du Cap in Antibes, where he likes to take his meals during the Cannes Film Festival.
It’s a fun, iconic spot to hang out at, but it’s also very much a working environment for the stylish 59-year-old. As well as taking meetings there, for the past dozen years or so, he’s hosted his Annual Filmmakers Dinner in the Hotel du Cap’s seafront Eden Roc restaurant. An exception is being made this year though because the bash, usually on the first Saturday of the festival, has shifted to this evening, Wednesday.
So, a smaller, more intimate soirée will take place tonight at the Villa Doran in Antibes, where close friends Jean Pigozzi and Dr. Barbara Sturm will support Finch in lauding filmmakers. They will also celebrate the launch of the inaugural issue of his new publication A Rabbit’s Foot; so-called because Ernest Hemingway “used to carry a rabbit’s foot in his pocket for his anxiety,” Finch explained.
The elegant Cannes edition of A Rabbit’s Foot features on its front cover a black and white photograph, by Brigitte Lacombe, of Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless) at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. Finch calls A Rabbit’s Foot a “bookazine’ and it’s beautifully curated by him featuring the lights of French cinema. He aims to publish a print edition three times a year “for as long as I can fund it.” A Rabbit’s Foot will also have an online presence where it’ll be updated twice a month.
Next year the Annual Filmmakers Dinner will move back to Eden Roc on the first Saturday of the film festival with long-term partner Chanel as sponsors.
The famed Parisian house sponsors his kill-to-get-an-invite dinners held on the eve of the BAFTAs in London and the Oscars in Hollywood. Both are lavish occasions with a crush of stars swirled together. In London, the venue is the Georgian townhouse 5 Hertford Street, a private members club in Mayfair. In LA, Oscar nominees, artists, and models—in short, the smart set—flock to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Finch joked that the dinners “are like an albatross around my neck, ” but he adores throwing them.
The whole thing started, he told Deadline, when he was “really broke, again” and his friend restaurateur Michael Chow, of Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills, asked, straight out, “How broke are you?”
“I said, ‘I’m fucking broke.’ He said, ‘Eat at the restaurant whenever you want. I’ll pay for you on the condition that you have a good time, don’t eat too much, and don’t have too many people.’”
Finch took Mr. Chow up on his generous offer. After a few months, Finch asked Chow if he could have a party in the restaurant the night before the Oscars. Chow cautioned that the Academy would not allow that to happen because they want all the movie stars to go to bed early!
”I said, ‘Listen, I’m 25 years old. The Academy doesn’t even know I exist, what the fuck do they care?’ Chow said, ‘How many people?’
“Everybody was there; Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, all the beautiful girls, the great actresses… There were 140 people in a restaurant that only could have 60 people. The party started at eight o’clock in the evening and we were still there like at four in the morning and it was fantastic,“ Finch recalled with evident glee.
Michael Chow though was completely livid. ”All the food and the booze!”
But he kept having those dinners, and he’s still having those dinners, just at a different address.
Later, he got a job at the William Morris Agency in London and soon enough a BAFTAs bash was launched. ”For years and years I paid for it and one day Chanel rang me up and they’ve been sponsoring us ever since.”
Finch is adamant though that both the Academy and BAFTA must up their game. ”We’ve made all the political points that need to be made. Let’s have less movie selection, and bring it back to the five best pictures. Let’s get focused on something that is classy. There’s a sort of glamour to being formal because if you disrupt the formality of these things you undervalue the award.”
This year’s Oscar ceremony, he said, was “an embarrassing disaster.”
He jabbed a finger. ”Why do you need to be making jokes all the time? Have one host who does it correctly and who gives these people some acclaim for the movies that they’ve put their heart and soul into. That goes for BAFTA, too!”
Why would anyone bother attending the BAFTAs, he stormed. “What the f*ck is going on? It doesn’t have to be a reflection of the turmoil of society. It should be a reflection of the best of society, that’s very different.”
Turns out he wasn’t quite done with whacking the Academy. “This is a night we want to see the best in you…not having you commenting on other people, on how they look and behave and making silly jokes. It’s not a laugh-in moment. This roasting of people is insulting,” he said referring not just to the Chris Rock – Will Smith incident, but the sense that hosts and presenters have got to insult and abuse to get a laugh. “Ricky Gervais shouldn’t be hosting awards. He’s a brilliant comic but he doesn’t need that kind of exposure, ” he told Deadline.
”Obviously what happened with Will Smith was terrible and uncalled for and he must have been going through something that we don’t know about. But he should have been asked to leave straight away, that’s it.”
And then to parade around the Vanity Fair Party “was a disgraceful moment,” said Finch.
People can laugh and have fun, Finch said. “But there’s a classy way of doing it.”