Breakfast at the Guild of Producers: Steven Spielberg, “Dune Part II”

Ahead of tonight’s Producers Guild of America awards ceremony, the annual Darryl F. Zanuck Award nomination breakfast at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The theme of the panel, moderated by PGA President Lisa Fisher, was Steven Spielberg, nominated as one of the producers for his musical “West Side Story”.

During the conversation, the two-time Oscar-winning director – for “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) – told the audience that he had never directed another musical in his career, although he ” He is currently co-producing the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” starring Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks. his DGA award, although he failed to get an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Spielberg’s adoration and general appreciation from all the nominated producers were well received at the event.

In response to a question about how producers can be successful and enter the business, Spielberg responded by saying, “The smartest thing I do is hire women. I always have and will always do. I believe in the power of the manufacturer. You are not just a leader. You are therapists. I rely on someone stronger than me to produce. ”

He reflected on the challenge to get the rights to the “West Side Story,” going to the house of lyricist Stephen Sondheim, saying, “His dogs sniffed my feet and I was afraid to drive them away. [as] I didn’t mean to offend him. “

He was able to achieve his goal by sharing that this was an opportunity to keep the story of Romeo and Juliet alive for another 30 years. “My favorite channels are TCM and Criterion Channel, but they don’t have the highest ratings.”

One Producer Guild nominee took the stage for the event in person – Todd Black (“Being the Ricardos”), Philippe Rousselet (“CODA”), Mary Parent (“Dune”), Tim White (“King”) ) Richard ”), Sara Murphy (“ Licorice Pizza ”), Tanya Seghatchian (“ Dog Power ”), Julie Oh (“ Tick, Tick… ​​Boom! ”) And Spielberg (“ West Side Story ”) – while Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) and Kevin Messick (“Don’t Look Up”) both appeared virtually through Zoom.

Fisher began by thanking everyone, telling the filmmakers in the room that they “won”: “They tried to kill us, but they didn’t succeed.”

She also highlighted the diversity of this year’s nominated producer crop, which includes nine female producers. Fisher indicated that almost 50% of the guild is made up of women.

The support of streaming giant Netflix was also a common topic among the three nominated films.

Tanya Seghatchian enjoyed the brilliance of her production team, especially Power of the Dog director and writer Jane Campion. The rights to the novel Thomas Savage have passed through several hands in the last 55 years, including the classic actor Paul Newman, who was to play the main character Phil Burbank, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the final film.

Julie Oh’s charisma shone brightest on stage when she spoke of Jonathan Larson’s journey to bring stage music: “There’s a reason there’s a Wikipedia page for the hell of development.”

Oh participated in one of the five shows that took place in New York, starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. Initially, she did not know about the show and was surprised that the rights were available.

Kevin Messick talked about the “urgency of climate change” in “Don’t Look Up” and how Adam McKay wrote the film with Jennifer Lawrence in mind. Most exciting was his response to the hardest day of production; “The worst day was January 7,” he said, referring to insurgency attacks on the capital.

Todd Black talked about wanting to make a film about Lucille Ball’s life in 1995, but the comedian’s children didn’t want him at the time. He also said that he knew that “Aaron Sorkin was the right man to write it” regarding his eight-year journey to make the film.

Philippe Rousselet began his opening remarks by acknowledging the strong year for films. Talking about the trip to get “CODA” and eventually sold it to Sundance for a record $ 25 million to Apple, he said, “It was the most amazing trip of my life as a manufacturer.”

Mary Parent watched as the rights to “Dune” passed through various hands, waiting for the right opportunity to seize the moment. That moment came after several “heavy passes” from various studios. During filming for “Godzilla” (2014), she introduced him to Alex Garcia’s production, selling Legendary’s project in 2013. She also talked about watching an interview with Denis Villeneuve, where the director said he lost weight. to lead an adaptation. of the famous novel since the age of 14, knowing at that moment that she had found her director.

Parent almost suggested that “Dune: Part II” “is not a sequel. That’s half the story. “

“King Richard” producer Tim White remembers seeing Richard Williams in real life, who is played in the film by best favorite actor Will Smith, taking signs at a tennis match in Miami in 1999, long before to realize he wants to make movies. Together with his brother and production partner Trevor, the two sent an e-mail to Venus Williams saying that they wanted to tell the story of the Williams sisters, without receiving any response: “Chances are [were] against us, “says White. “We have absolutely no access to the Williams family.”

Sara Murphy talked about the story of “Licorice Pizza” ruminating in the mind of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson for a long time. She talked about Anderson spending a lot of time with producer and former child actor Gary Goetzman, based on Cooper Hoffman’s character, Gary, after the death of Oscar winner Jonathan Demme. Murphy said one of the most difficult things was “convincing Gary to sign a life rights agreement.”

Branagh supported the three female producers – Laura Berwick, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas – and recalled the availability of all during the pandemic. He received a reply from two of his stars, Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, within hours of sending him an initial email about the project. Branagh also recalled showing his semi-autobiographical “Belfast” family: “There was a lot of uncertainty. The most difficult moment was to tell this personal story about my family, my family. My brother saying that the things I say have happened to me, have happened to him. “

The PGA Awards take place tonight at 20:00 PST.