|Thin Red Line - Grant Hill, Producer
|by Peter Galvin
Film producer Grant Hill was born in Australia where he graduated from film school, though he has spent most of his professional movie career in the US (and before that he had a swing through law school). He's been Head of production at Village Roadshow Pictures (USA) and has co-produced such monster productions as James Cameron's Titanic and The Ghost and The Darkness, and was an executive on Cutthroat Island. Peter Galvin spoke to this year's Oscar nominee about producing The Thin Red Line.
PG: At the risk of sounding inane - you've worked on two of the biggest - logistically speaking - projects in the past five years, Cameron's Titanic and The Thin Red Line...
GH: What's interesting is that both directors have reputations as eccentric, irascible, even slightly crazed personalities? They are both very different people. But, the surprising thing is that there are more similarities than there are differences. They are both enormously intelligent. They are both creatively driven. Their personalities are slightly different. The way of approaching things on a day to day basis is slightly different but their level of excellence is the same. Interestingly they got along very well together. And I think that's because filmmakers bond. At a certain level it's about commitment to making a picture and being able to convey that vision. The process of making a picture now and particularly with anything that has any scale, demands such a lot of energy. You can't operate with that energy because everything is against getting a movie going. And, as producer, you can help, advise, support but at the end of the day it is one person - the director. That strength of personality that it takes to stick to a vision and at the same time be prepared to take suggestions and changes.
PG: So what's Terrence like to work with?
GH: While Terry is very experienced he knows what his process is in making a movie. And it's important to him that everybody else involved understands that. He's very honourable with that because he doesn't want to trap people into making the picture his way. He likes a certain degree of improvisation and he likes the time to able fix something if it doesn't work. He likes to have the opportunity to seize the moment if he sees something he likes - say if something emerges than what has actually been written. That demands a structure on a production end that will be able to accommodate that. Because Terry is aware of his requirements he's able to, at the outset, elaborate and explain that to the team and the studio. Terry's method requires an enormous leap of faith on the part of the studio. It's not like a situation where the studio might say: "You have this many days, and we're going to ride you all the time." What we were saying to Fox was - this is what we need to make this film. As it turns out, it ended up a relatively cheap movie for them to make. The great thing about Fox in this case is that they absolutely bought into it.
PG: Yet he had a lot sweeteners - the smallish budget, the all star cast - and at the same time he had this cast improvising - something that I would have thought might have the Fox bosses going white at the knuckles?
GH: That's a very valid observation. But even therein lies in itself this huge potential risk for the studio. Yes, you have all these solid blocks like Penn, Travolta, et al and yet you are putting them in this unusual position. The film is being shot a long way away from LA; someone who hasn't made a film for a considerable amount of time is directing it. We wanted to have in the key roles relative up and comers...it really did get down to a meeting where we sat with the studio heads and said this is what we want to do - you either say yes or no. And they said yes and never veered from it in their support.
PG: Was there much misbehaving from the all star cast - no such stories seem to cross the border?
GH: No. You know one of the pleasurable things was that the whole thing had a very familial feel about it. The actors wanted to be there. You put them in a very comfortable place at Port Douglas, in apartments and resorts and develop a very pleasant environment. You had pranks but the real reason that things were so pleasant is that they were happy and had a good time. There's really not much more to say about it. And I think that the real high profile actors love the fact that they could go to a restaurant and sit and have a meal and not be bothered - with the occasional acknowledgment.
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originally posted: 05/08/99 22:27:16
last updated: 05/19/99 15:50:08