Tom Rothman Goes Indie While Juggling 'Die Hard' Start And 'We Bought A Zoo' Sneak

It wasn’t lost on many in the crowd of independent film distributors and agents at this week’s Gotham Awards that the whole evening seemed full of contradictions. Indie film is a down and dirty, low budget affair, and yet the event was held in the cavernous confines of Cipriani at 55 Wall Street, where attendees dined on filet mignon and champagne, just around the corner from the Occupy Wall Street crowd. No one personified this dichotomy more than Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman Tom Rothman, the only executive given a tribute award. Rothman’s roots are in the indie game, even though he now spends most of his time these days as the hands-on manager of big ticket films like A Good Day To Die Hard and readying the next installments of Rise of the Apes and X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine.

Rothman said he still has a soft spot for the indies, and he was touched by Ang Lee’s recollection of Rothman begging him not to “fry the kid” in Ice Storm, and then being supportive when Lee did it anyway, electrocuting Elijah Wood’s character in a gamble that worked out. Rothman said he felt like he’d come out on the winning side on another gamble, sneaking Cameron Crowe’s We Bought A Zoo all over the country. “I can’t recall any movie snuck like this a month early on a national wide basis, before the advertising hit,” Rothman said. He’s now¬† confident that the word of mouth will give the film a leg up during a brutal holiday period. “It’s a completely un-cynical film, something that is good for this time, given all that’s going on,” Rothman said. “It was a risky move, but we had many sellouts, and it’s a reminder you should never underestimate the power of emotion.”

On the big budget film front, Rothman told me that they have pushed the start date of the John Moore-directed A Good Day To Die Hard until the last week of April, to accommodate star Bruce Willis. They’re shooting in Budapest and Moscow but Rothman was certain they will still have the film ready for release Valentine’s Day, 2013. The series has always eschewed relying on visual effects, so the extra prep time will be helpful, said Rothman. He added that no decision has been made yet on who’ll play John McClane Jr., and they still haven’t done the tests that will determine who gets the job.

As for the Gotham Awards, it always feels like an unpolished event and it’s haunted by the fact that the industry crowd never stops talking at their tables, and winners never stop talking at the podium. This year’s hosts, Oliver Platt and Edie Falco, weren’t given much to work with and proved to be a bland teaming. The Spirit Awards are much better coordinated, with filmed comic bits and musical performances and a feeling of subversiveness. One thing that Gotham Award organizers might consider: beg Tilda Swinton to host. She took the stage to present an award, and made off the cuff observations that were hilarious. She’s a natural.

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