Is This Brian's Year To Win The Thalberg?

I need to share a Hollywood nugget about Brian Grazer that truly illustrates how, to paraphrase the line in American Gangster, “success is your enemy” — especially in this town. It’s timed to today’s splashy New York Times profile on the pic’s Imagine producer. And Brian doesn’t even know I know about this, which makes the story that much better.

Let’s go back to 2004, the year that Joe Roth was asked to produce the Oscars. Forget that his Revolution Studios was already failing. Forget that he’d never produced a minute of television. But here he was suddenly put in control of the 76th Academy Awards broadcast by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences.

I was tipped very early on that Grazer was going to be given the most coveted Oscar honor for anyone in Hollywood: the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production”. What makes the Thalberg even more special is that it’s rarely bestowed by the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, and then only to legends. Oh sure, producers get the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award quite often. But not the Thalberg. In fact, the last time it was part of the Oscars was 2000 when the recipient was Dino De Laurentiis.

Based on what I heard at the time, everything was set for Grazer to get it. That is, until the plan was run past Roth who immediately nixed the idea to the AMPAS board. The reason, Roth told them, was that there wasn’t enough time in the broadcast to include the Thalberg award ceremony and speechifying. And the way it works at AMPAS, the producer is one of the few with final say over what’s in the Academy Awards broadcast.

To this day, those in the know about what went down are convinced that Roth was jealous of Grazer and didn’t want a rival producer to one-up him with the Thalberg. It was, in my estimation, a rotten thing to do. Especially because, as anyone who saw the 76th Academy Awards may remember, a lot of crap could have been cut to include the Thalberg.

So maybe this will be Grazer’s year for the Thalberg at the milestone 80th Oscars. And maybe today’s NY Times article is the start of a sly campaign for it. (For instance, we now know the reason why Brian leaves all those pics of himself behind in other people’s houses after parties is “to make sure he is not forgotten”.)

I say give it to him.

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