The Ballad of Scott and Harvey: Behind the scenes on Oscar heavyweights
Success has many fathers, and Oscar has producer Scott Rudin and studio head Harvey Weinstein. We tracked Rudin and Weinstein's knack for racking up statuettes in a fuller story this week on the 31 combined Academy Award nominations they earned this year -- Rudin for "The Social Network" and "True Grit" and Weinstein for "Blue Valentine" and "The King's Speech."
To better understand what Rudin and Weinstein do behind the scenes on their films, we talked to some of their collaborators -- Colin Firth, Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Anderson and Derek Cianfrance.
Both Rudin and Weinstein have played instrumental roles in the casting of their films.
Colin Firth, whom Weinstein hand-picked for his role in "The King's Speech," first worked for the studio head on a small 1993 film called "The Advocate." "Before I met him, I heard that he was extremely keen on casting me," Firth said. "This intrigued me because I knew I meant absolutely nothing to the box office."
Rudin helped get a then-lesser-known actor past studio skeptics when he worked with Joel and Ethan Coen on "No Country for Old Men" -- Josh Brolin. “The casting of the main part was long and tortured,” Ethan Coen recalled. “It was getting close to production and it was all a little anxiety producing because the part was uncast. When we told Scott we wanted Josh he was immediately enthusiastic. We were enthusiastic because of an audition, but Scott was canny. He knew on the basis of Josh’s movie work -- which hadn’t been huge up to that point -- the rightness of him for the role and he helped us with the studio.”
Another place where both men work heavily on the process is during a film's release. When Wes Anderson was finishing his second movie, "Rushmore," he enlisted Rudin as an unofficial producer to help navigate marketing and distribution. On his first film, "Bottle Rocket," Anderson said he had operated in the dark. “Suddenly, Scott was there and I felt like we knew what was going on all the time,” Anderson said. “He seemed to have information about everything. I was very interested in what the one-sheet would look like and how we could help shape the trailer, and up until that point, I had no access to that process. Not only did Scott talk to the department heads at the studio, he knew all the people who worked for them. He knew everyone’s phone number on every level.”
When Cianfrance's movie "Blue Valentine" received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, Weinstein hatched a plan for overturning the ruling.
"I said, 'Harvey what are we gonna do?'" Cianfrance recalled. "He says, 'We gotta fight it.' He says, 'Let’s set up a screening in Kansas City tomorrow night for parents. When the film’s over, we’re gonna have one of the people that do the surveys ask what it should be rated.' Well 70% of the parents said it should be R. Harvey took that and a lot more to the MPAA and he presented our case. He went into this deal and made history."
When the ruling was overturned, Cianfrance sent Weinstein an ice cream cake. "Then it melted," Cianfrance said. " 'Cause the guy’s so busy."
-- Rebecca Keegan and Nicole Sperling
Top photo: Harvey Weinstein. Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images for Bing
Bottom photo: Scott Rudin. Credit: Jennifer Altman / For the Los Angeles Times