Many Hollywood producers go their whole careers hoping just once to field a Best Picture contender in the Oscar race. Scott Rudin, who won in 2008 for No Country For Old Men, this year has not one but two films with real shots to win the ultimate category. There’s little doubt that his The Social Network and True Grit will make the lineup for the 10 Best Picture nominees. Earlier today when the Producers Guild announced their nominees, Rudin became the first producer to receive two feature nominations in the same year, to go with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award he’ll also receive at the ceremonies. Campaigning for one film is a challenge for any producer. For one as hands on as Rudin, it’s a lot to navigate.
DEADLINE: It’s rare to be the main producer of two films in the Best Picture hunt. It must be like a father having two kids in the same beauty pageant…
RUDIN: First of all, I don’t want to talk about myself as the main producer, I had great partners on both. I’m working with both these teams again and part of the reason this works is we all share. But it’s a great thing to have two movies people like. The Oscar stuff is fantastic, rewarding and in some ways exciting, but it’s not why you do it. You do it because you want to hold your own work to a standard of excellence. It’s a bonus when other people agree you’ve achieved it, but, in the end, I’m really trying to feel good about my work. That’s my goal, to feel like I’ve done the best I could. When I’ve done that, anything else that happens is a bonus.
DEADLINE: The Social Network has passed $200 million at the worldwide box office, and True Grit has been the Coen Brothers’ highest grossing movie ever. What does this tell you?
RUDIN: They’re just good. I also don’t buy the idea that audiences don’t enjoy dramas. I think that audiences historically have just not responded to weak films. I got really lucky this year with two strong films from fantastic filmmakers. That’s why both worked, along with the advantage of being well marketed by both studios. A couple of years ago, either movie might conceivably have gone out through a specialty division. Neither would have reached anywhere near the level of gross they did. Because you are looking at two movies that opened in 2,200 and 3,000 screens respectively. That’s got to be powered by a decent amount of advertising money. There’s no way to bet halfway. Part of the reason you’re looking at them turn into blockbusters is that the studios that made them loved them, believed in them, and chased them. The chase is a big part of this.
DEADLINE: Chase means spend. Is convincing studios to do that on non-sequels a challenge?
RUDIN: The challenge is convincing the people paying for it that there is an upside in going for it in a big way. In the case of Social Network, we had a handful of LA screenings and the movie was, frankly, rapturously received. It was by far the best critical response I’ve ever had on anything. We thought it would be great if the film opened the New York Film Festival. They were the first people to see it, the screening finished, and they called and said, ‘You have opening night. We love the movie’. That movie was ratified, immediately. With True Grit, while we never had a screening of the movie, the people who paid for it thought it was a big rousing romantic adventure. All of us felt it clearly had the potential to be the most successful Coen Brothers movie ever, which it is now. They deserve it. They did a brilliant job on it. Part of the job is carrying the studio along with the making of the film, so people understand you’re making a film that you believe has the capacity to work in a big way.
DEADLINE: These are two very different projects. How did you support each as producer?
RUDIN: They needed very different things. In the case of True Grit, it has always been, pulling together the financing, pulling together the cast, running the marketing, giving them what they need. They need no help of any kind making the movie. They don’t want it, and I wouldn’t presume there was anything I could tell them about the making of a movie. We worked great together because we know what we each do and that’s a very comfortable place. There are aspects of the movie they’re very happy to run on their own, and aspects they are happy for me to run alone. We got that very clear and right the very first time we worked together on Raising Arizona, so I go back with the guys basically to the very beginning of their careers.
DEADLINE: Will they take a script note from you?
RUDIN: Yes. I have done that, and I do. We did a lot of work on the script of No Country, and on True Grit. There are big differences between Charles Portis’ book and this movie (more…)