Exclusive: Producer Brian Oliver Talks THE IDES OF MARCH, RUSH, Steve McQueen Biopic, THE WOMAN IN BLACK, and Much More

     October 11, 2011


Shortly before George Clooney’s The Ides of March hit theaters, I sat down with Brian Oliver, President and CEO of Cross Creek Pictures, for an exclusive interview.  While you may not be familiar with Cross Creek Pictures or even Brian Oliver, that’s about to change.  I say this because last year they produced Darren Aronofsky ‘s Black Swan, Ides of March, Ron Howard’s Rush and the Gothic horror film The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe.  In addition, they’re developing a Steve McQueen biopic that will star Jeremy Renner, two Eli Roth projects that will shoot next year, the real life story of mobster Whitey Bulger (Black Mass), and the Colin Firth/Emily Blunt film Arthur Newman, Golf Pro. So, like I said, Cross Creek is about to hit your radar.

During my extended conversation with Oliver we talked about Cross Creek’s plans for the future, what they have in development and the status of each project, how he ended up running the company, how the success of Black Swan has impacted their future plans, and so much more.  I’ve also put together a list of “15 Things to Know” in case you just want the highlights. Hit the jump for more.

Since I know a lot of you won’t have the time to read the interview, here’s “15 Things to Know” from my Brian Oliver interview.  You can also click here to listen to the full conversation.

  • As President and CEO of Cross Creek Pictures, Oliver acts as both the producer and financier on the films that Cross Creek produces. In addition to being creatively involved and developing the material, Oliver has to govern the production financially.
  • Their business plan is to make studio quality movies at independent rates. For example, Ron Howard’s upcoming racing drama Rush would be a $100 million+ movie at a big studio, but Cross Creek is producing the film for $50 million.
  • The Ides of March was originally set up at Warner Bros., but when George Clooney realized the studio wasn’t the right fit, he and Cross Creek convinced WB to put the project in turnaround so Cross Creek could make the film.
  • Ideally, Cross Creek would like to make 4 to 5 movies a year, but in reality Oliver thinks they’ll make 3 to 4 a year.
  • The plan with The Woman in Black was to model it after The Others and The Sixth Sense and get a movie star that’s a good fit to anchor a genre horror movie.
  • After the great experience with Black Swan, Oliver said that they really want to do a first look deal with Darren Aronofsky.
  • Production on Ron Howard’s Rush has already begun, even though star Chris Hemsworth won’t be available until January. They filmed some racing scenes in Germany so they can get started on the special effects work, and they’re going to continue to shoot B-roll stuff up until January when Hemsworth comes on. Production will continue through April.
  • Anthony Dod Mantle, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, is the director of photography on Rush. He’s building some rigs specifically for the film to shoot the race scenes in a way that no one has seen before.
  • Before Rush, the Colin Firth/Emily Blunt film Arthur Newman, Golf Pro goes into production. Filming will take place in North Carolina and Dante Ariola is directing.
  • The Woman in Black was almost in 3D, but they ultimately decided against it. Rush will not be in 3D, but the Steve McQueen biopic will probably be done in 3D.
  • Jeremy Renner will be starring in the Steve McQueen biopic. James Gray is still writing the screenplay, then after they have a finished script that Renner likes, and the actor has a break in his schedule, they’ll go into production.
  • They’re producing two Eli Roth projects that will shoot next year. The Aftershock is a disaster horror movie set during an earthquake in Chile, and Clown is a haunted clown genre picture.
  • Roth is also writing a film that he wants to direct early next year.
  • Cross Creek is also producing Black Mass, the real life story of mobster Whitey Bulger. Russell Gewirtz penned the latest rewrite based on Mark Mallouk’s first draft. They’re currently looking for directors.
  • They’re also developing Hellfire Club, about Benjamin Franklin’s time in London when he was sent to stop the Stamp Act. He got caught up in a group of intellectuals who called themselves “Hellfire Club” whose activities included sex parties in caves and the like. They rebelled against the government and tried to take Franklin to trial for treason.

george-clooney-jeffrey-wright-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageCollider: Did you go to TIFF this year?

Brian Oliver:  I didn’t.  I was in Venice and then I went on vacation with my wife for a week.

I would imagine that TIFF is a big thing for you because you had Black Swan there last year.  You had Ides of March at Venice, but there is also TIFF, and they are almost at the same time.  Can you talk about how Venice was like this year and how it was like premiering the film there this year?

Oliver:  It has been very unique, but also very exciting, that the last two years we have opened up the Venice Film Festival.  The opening film was Black Swan last year and then this year we went with Ides of March.  They were both at Toronto and well received.  So it has been a little bit of Groundhog Day in a sense, but in a really good way.  It has been exciting that we have kind of repeated a similar process again this year as we did last year because last year was a pretty amazing year.

It is interesting because I think people are really realizing that September is really the month when the horses come out to play.  This is when you start premiering your movie and this is when the buzz starts to build for awards season.  Is that in your brain with these projects?  Has this always been the month that you want to do your movies or is this just the way that it works out?

Oliver:  It is definitely not the way that it works out.  I think people, and especially filmmakers, are very aware that by timing your release date, your delivery date, when you start your film, and to be able to do a fourth quarter release is the way that you can get into these festivals.  It is the way that you can know that your movie is at least going to be released at the right time for the awards season.  I think there is a lot strategy that goes into release dates with awards consideration than people probably realize.

george-clooney-phillip-seymour-hoffman-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageFor the people that don’t know, what is your exact position and how did you end up at this company?

Oliver:  My exact position is that I am the president and CEO of Cross Creek Pictures.  I produce the films for us and we have a fund that finances the films that we produce.  So you kind of have to wear both hats.  You have to bring in the material, produce, and develop it.  But you also have to be the financier and see what makes sense financially.  How do we make money doing this money?  Sometimes you are walking on a razor’s edge.  So you have to be able to separate the art from the commerce sometimes.  I enjoy doing that and I think that I can do both well.  I like being the creative guy and also yet the financial guy.  I went to law school, graduated, and went through the mailroom of William Morris, like so many others.  I worked in their film division and I was eventually hired from there by one of my bosses, who worked at William Morris.  I went to Propaganda Films and I worked in the film division there with Rick Hess for 3 or 4 years and then Rick went to CAA to be the head of the film packaging division there.  He and I got a financier in the business – Steve Samuels – who came in and financed Michael Clayton, In the Valley of Ellah, Half Light, and some other movies.  So I decided to set up my own situation.  So the first thing was writing a business plan that I thought would be viable with equity.  How do you use equity in the best way?  How do you put the movies together in the best way with that equity?   I met Tim Thompson and together we met with fund attorneys and we put together fund documents.  Tim then introduced me to some of his buddies, who are high net worth individuals in the oil and gas business.  So we put the fund together and the first movie that we financed under the fund was Black Swan.

george-clooney-ryan-gosling-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageBlack Swan was a huge financial success.  It was unheard of for that type of movie to do the type of money that it did.  It really did crossover.  How did that success impact the short and long term finances of Cross Creek?  When you set up a package like that, how much money comes back to the company?  Is it a huge percentage or it just a blip?  How does that all work?

Oliver:  On Black Swan we put in about $6.5 million and on an ultimate basis we should make about 8-10 times our money.  So that is a pretty great return.

I would say so

Oliver: We set up the fund to where we are not…we are making the movies for hurdles, but we are not saying we are in the business to try and hit homeruns and to make movies that make 10 times their money.  That is not…we are fine making movies that are profitable and making a legitimate return on an investment.  It is nice to have a movie like Black Swan be the first movie out of the gate, but I think Woman in Black and Ides of March will be great returns for our fund and yet they don’t have to do $330 million to get there.

george-clooney-ryan-gosling-the-ides-of-march-set-imageI am definitely curious about the level of budgets that you guys are trying to go for.  I would imagine that Black Swan, Ides of March, and Woman in Black are not these huge, high budget movies.  These seem like mid-range budgeted movies.  I’m curious, what is the plan?  Are you guys trying to stay around a certain number or are there going to be moments where you guys deicide that you are going to go for something huge?

Oliver:  No.  I mean, our whole goal is to stick to the original business plan, which is to make studio quality movies at independent rates.  I think that Black Swan was a mid $30 million budget at Universal and then we did for a net $13 million.  Ides of March, if it was done at Warner Bros, would have been in the 30s and we did it at a net $17 million, or even less than that at $15 million.  You know, we are looking to do Rush next, which is a formula-one movie.  If that was done at a studio it would probably be $100 million plus and we are going to do it for $50.  That is what we want to do.  The budget range, obviously for us, depends on what type of movie it is and who the cast is.  That allows me to know what I can cover through international and soft money, and then we gap it.  So it is not really…for us, we can make a $60 million movie, but it is just about how much of that is our exposure, and how much we can cover through subsidiaries and foreign sales.  I think our sweet spot is in the $20 to $30 million range.  However, on certain movies where the international is huge and you can get a lot of soft money – we can go up to the $60-$70 million range.  As long as our exposure is not greatly affected, then we can do that.

ryan-gosling-evan-rachel-wood-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageHow much are you guys doing foreign pre-sales on your titles or is it something where you say, “We really believe in this and we really think that we can sell this for a big number down the road.  We are not going to foreign pre-sale this and just go all in.”?

Oliver:  No.  We never go all in.  What we will do in certain instances is that we won’t sell everything.  We will hold back certain territories if we feel that German territory makes more sense to make a direct distribution deal in with either the studio or with an independent – we can do that.  That means that we have taken a no MG deal in the territory and we have retained our distribution rights.  We can do that, but we are never going to be in a situation where we just make the money and hope to sell it.  That is not our business model.

Can you talk about putting Ides of March together?  Was how long was this circling to get made and can you talk about getting it going?

Oliver:  I think that Ides of March is a great example of what we are trying to do here.  Ides of March was originally set up at Warner Bros.  George [Clooney] and Smokehouse Productions set it up at Warner Bros and I think that somewhere along the way either they or Warner Bros realized that maybe that wasn’t the right place for it.  So we talked through CAA and George’s representatives.  We met with them and we said that we would make it.  So what they did was they went to Warner Bros and said, “Look, you are not going to do make this.  Put this in turnaround and we are going to make this somewhere else.”  So the process started with Warner Bros.  We got them to put it in turnaround and we came in and said that we would finance the movie.  We got Sony to do the distribution deal just for domestic.  We then pre-sold the movie and made it.  I think the whole process of it was that they set it up at Warner Bros a few years earlier and they had Beau Willimon, who wrote the play, write a draft, and then George and [screenwriter] Grant Heslov came in and did a draft.  I think they were going to then make it right around the time that Obama was elected.  I think George and everybody had a huge sense of hope and this is the movie, which I don’t want to give too much away about, is probably maybe not that sentiment.  So I think that George thought it was the wrong time to make the movie.  So they went off and made a couple of other movies.  I think the environment we are in and the political situation in the U.S. right now is kind of fitting for the movie.  So I think that George and Grant thought this was the time and I think that is when they decided to go out and make it.

ryan-gosling-phillip-seymour-hoffman-marisa-tomei-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageAre you the type of producer that is on set everyday or do you go on selected day?  How much are you one of these people that is giving notes while you are on set?

Oliver:  You know, I was on the set of Black Swan every day.  I was there for a lot of the time for Woman in Black.  I was there pretty much every day for Ides of March.  It’s more because…like I said, it’s hard to wear both hats.  You’re a financier, but you’re also a producer.  I think that part of producing is seeing it being brought to the screen.  All of the development and financing work…I have this conversation with my wife a lot about how the hardest part of making a movie is way before you start shooting.  All of the work in getting the actors, putting the financing, getting the bond, doing all of the guild requirements, and all of the stuff that comes in when making a movie – it’s amazing that we get anything done.  It’s a lot of work.  So getting it into production and being there while it is being made as a producer is as much of a reward as it is work.  Seeing it actually get turned into a film is the greatest part of making a movie.

I have heard this from other producers about the challenges involved in bringing films to life.  What is the long term plan for you guys as far as how many movies you want to make per year?

Oliver:  We would love to make 4 to 5 movies a year.  I think the reality is that we will probably make 3 to 4 just because it’s a lot more work than people realize to make a movie and it doesn’t end, especially when you are financier.  It doesn’t end when you wrap the movie, you know?  There’s the marketing, the distribution, and everything that comes with delivering the movie to the studio.  So it is a lot of work.  Maybe down the road as we grow bigger we can increase, but I think 3 to 4 films a year is a good number for us for right now.  We did 3 movies in 15 months and it was good, but it was a lot of work.

ryan-gosling-the-ides-of-march-movie-imageI want to ask you about The Woman in Black.  Can you talk about getting Daniel Radcliffe involved with project?  Was that something that he was already involved in?

Oliver:  No.  We got involved with The Woman in Black early on during the development stage when they were just talking to [director] James [Watkins] and there was no cast.  We all talked about who we felt would be a good person to play that role and we all decided that if you get a movie star to be in a genre horror movie it’s a nice fit,  It brings something and then you can market the movie with a movie star, but also the horror movies market themselves.  So we kind of tried to pattern what they did with The Others and Nicole Kidman and what they did with The Sixth Sense and Bruce Willis.  We felt that having a legitimate movie star in a genre piece is a nice piece of business.  I actually owe a lot of credit to Simon Oakes, who was very instrumental in getting Daniel Radcliffe attached.  I think that Daniel really liked James and they really had a good meeting.  So I think that it was a blessing.  It’s pretty great to have Daniel Radcliffe after the last Harry Potter film in a genre movie.

ides-of-march-movie-image-ryan-gosling-02What is interesting about you making a movie versus how a studio would do it is that there seems to be a smaller bureaucratic head that I believe helps to maybe make better movies because you don’t have all of these producers who want to point out why they are important, and why they need to be involved while adding some few notes or whatever.  When you guys greenlight a movie, how many heads are out there giving notes?

Oliver:  I know what you mean.  What you are saying is why a lot of people are sometimes frustrated with the studio development.  You have 25 people working on a movie and they all have to justify why they are working on the movie.  So you have 25 different people trying to say, “I am the person that gave that note.”  So the development process at a studio, to me, can sometimes be tiring at best.  You have a lot of people trying to show you why they have that job.  For us, there are obviously a lot of times when work is still being done on the script.  George and Grant were writing on Ides of March up until when we shot.  I think that you use the finer piece of material that you believe in and that you find a director that you believe in, and then you greenlight the movie.  Then you work to get it where you want it to be, and then you make it.  Otherwise, movies sit for years and years in development.  I don’t know if there is a perfect script.  A lot of people told me that I was crazy to make Black Swan and that the script needed some work and I was like, “Yeah.  What script doesn’t need some work?”  I think that sometimes having some faith and believing in a filmmaker that he is going to turn it into his vision and he is going to fix some of the issues…you can never make anything perfect before you make it.  I think that mentality is why a lot of movies don’t get made.

the-ides-of-march-posterI am a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky and I imagine that after the big success of Black Swan that everyone walked away very happy with that process.  Have you guys been talking about maybe doing something else together or is he doing his own thing?

Oliver:  We have talked to Darren and [producer] Scott [Franklin] about doing a lot of things together.  We obviously had a very good experience with Darren and I think he had a very good experience with him.  We really want to do a first look deal with him and we talked to him a lot about it, but he had something going on with Fox at the time.  So it didn’t work out.  It looks like he is probably going to end up doing something at New Regency, but if that doesn’t work out we would love to have a first look deal with him.  We think he is extremely talented and he couldn’t have made a better movie.  We couldn’t have had a better experience not only with Darren, but with his company Protozoa.  Everything was great and we have a really strong, good relationship with them.

Black Swan was one of my favorites of last year.  It was just an incredible film.  What is the status with Rush?  Where are you in terms of production?  I believe that I saw pictures of Ron Howard on a race track.

Oliver:  We started production last weekend in Germany.  We shot 4 days of principle photography because we wanted the plates to start the special effects.  They have these classic races with the original cars from the period so we wanted to get some footage so that we could start doing the plates.  But it was also because we wanted to start the movie.  We are all excited and we are waiting for one of our actors, who doesn’t become available until January.  But we are going to continue to shoot some B-roll stuff all the way up until January.  So we will be officially in production on the movie from now until we wrap in April.

I know that you have Chris Hemsworth…

Oliver: Chris Hemsworth is playing James Hunt.

Is he the one who is tied up until January?

Oliver:  Yes.

ron-howard-imageThat guy works a lot.

Oliver:  Yeah.  We then have Daniel Brühl, who is going to play Niki Lauda.  He was actually in Germany at the shoot this weekend.  Then we are casting the other roles.  We are excited about it, though.  I think reteaming Ron Howard and Peter Morgan, who teamed together on Frost/Nixon, is a really great combination.  To see the way that they work and the development is amazing.  They go through line by line and continually rewrite it and do the script.  It’s a great process to watch.

There have been some racing films lately.  Have you watched Senna? That was a great movie.

Oliver:  It was a really great movie.   Eric Fellner, who is one of our producers on Rush, produced Senna.  We obviously have someone that knows the world on our team.  So it is exciting.

anthony-dod-mantle-image-2I’ve noticed recently that there is more talk about first person shooting.  I just did a set visit on End of Watch and Jake Gyllenhaal is wearing a camera.  There is also talk about Ben Affleck doing some stuff with POV to make it feel like you are there.  Will you be doing any of that on Rush or is there anything cool that you are going to do?

Oliver:  Yeah.  To give you something that probably no one else knows –Anthony Dod Mantle is the DP.  Anthony Dod Mantle is well known for being very experimental, interesting, and for doing crazy camera work with multiple mediums.  So Rush will definitely have some very exciting photography.  We are going to have some interesting camera mounts on cars and we are going to do some stuff that no one has seen.

What are your thoughts on the 3D revolution that is happening right now?  Do you think it is a fad or is it here to stay?  Is your company thinking about 3D in the future?

Oliver:  If we had the right project that I thought was fitting for 3D, we would do it.  We almost did The Woman in Black and I was not a proponent of that.  I didn’t that…I thought it kind of cheapened the story.  I don’t think we need it.  I am not the biggest 3D fan.  I am not totally against it either.   I have seen movies that I have liked.  Avatar is a good example of it.  It worked really great in Avatar.   To do I strive to make all of my TVs and everything in my house 3D?  No.  Am I that big of a fan?  No.  Do you think it is a fad?  Somewhat.  Do I think it will ever take over and everything will be 3D?  No.  I think sometimes it can take away from the story.  I really think that sometimes you forget about the story and you get caught up in the visuals too much.  I think for certain projects it can be great.  It really is.  I watched Up and it was amazing.  I loved it!  It should be 3D, but I don’t know if all of the movies should be.  I don’t know if you want to make a Nelson Mandela movie and make it in 3D.  You know what I mean?

formula-one-racecar-imageWe are on the same page.  I think that animated movies are incredible in 3D, but I don’t need to see certain films in 3D.  That is just me, though.

Oliver:  Yeah.  So if the next question is if we are going to do Rush in 3D – no.   I’m still a big fan of film.  Maybe I am in the stone age or not, but I like film.

I spoke to Roger Deakins and he said that he is moving to the ARRI Alexa.  I just saw a picture of Terence Malick and Christian Bale at the Austin Film Festival.  There was video of them filming and Malick is using the ARRI Alexa.  If Deakins and Malick are going to the ARRI Alexa, I think we are moving into a whole new generation.

Oliver:  Yeah, we are.  I think there will obviously be a day when there will not be anymore film.  I mean, they will figure out a way to make digital look exactly the same as film.  But, you know, I kind of like projectors and film. [laughs]

steve-mcqueen-imageI’m in the same boat, but I definitely think that digital filmmaking is taking over.  I am so respectful of Nolan filming The Dark Knight Rises with actual IMAX cameras, which are going to be amazing.  I see a Steve McQueen book on your desk and I know that is one of the projects that you are developing.  What is the status on that one?

Oliver:  We are looking to do that in 3D.  [laughs]  Its status is that James Gray is writing the script right now.  We will have a script in the next couple of weeks, probably.  Jeremy Renner is attached to play the lead.  It is obviously something that is close to our heart here that we want to do.  We have a bunch of distributors that want to get involved, but we don’t have a script yet.  So we are waiting, but we are eagerly waiting and we are excited.

Jeremy Renner is attached to, I would say, every project in Hollywood at this point.  How tough is it to find a spot in his schedule?  I’ve talked to Guillermo del Toro and a lot of directors that attach themselves to 6 or 8 projects because they never really know what is going to get greenlit.  Saying that, Renner seems like he is really out there.  How tough is it going to be to get him into something?

Oliver:  It is funny you ask that because I just had lunch with his manager, who you just met. [laughs]  But he is obviously one of the hot actors out there right now and he is having a nice little run.  He has been nominated two years in a row and he is taking over the Bourne franchise and also over the Mission: Impossible franchise.  But I think that it is one of those things where if you have a piece of material that an actor really wants to do – they find the time and make it work.  As they become bigger actors, they can obviously control their schedule more and more.  So they can take a little bit more time when the movie is good.  I think that if James turns in a script that Jeremy wants to do, we will make it when he wants to do it.  I think there is a little window that we can probably meet that we have been talking about, but we don’t have a script yet.  So, for right now, it is still in development.

jeremy-renner-imageIs there an angle on the script?  Are you guys looking at a short window of his life or are you looking at a full biopic?  If you don’t mind me asking, do you have an angle on it?

Oliver:   I do, but I think you should wait and interview James.  I don’t want to be telling people what he is writing, but we do have a definite take.  It’s not just going to be a bio piece and the highlights of his life.

I noticed that Kurt Sutter has a project with you guys or maybe he doesn’t anymore with Delivering Gen.

Oliver:  Yeah.  We own a script that he wrote that is on our development slate and we want to make it.

What are some things that are bubbling up for you?  I researched what you are doing and read about the Colin Firth/Emily Blunt film Arthur Newman, Golf Pro, but what is bubbling up for you guys after Rush?

Oliver:  Before Rush, we are doing the Colin Firth/Emily Blunt film.  We start production in 3 weeks in North Carolina on that with Dante Ariola directing.  After Rush, we have two Eli Roth projects that we are doing.  One is called The Aftershock, which is kind of this disaster horror movie that deals with an earthquake in Chile.  We want to do that in the first quarter of next year.  We then have Clown with Eli Roth, which we want to do immediately after that.  That is a haunted clown genre picture that Eli is producing.  We have a script for a film that just came in called Black Mass, which is about Whitey Bulger.

I am very curious about that one.

Oliver:  Russell Gewirtz wrote the script and it’s a redraft.  Mark Mallouk did the first draft and we’re out looking for directors right now.  That’s definitely something that we really want to make.  If we could do that next, we would.  I just don’t think that we can get that in production before the end of the year just because of the timing.  It’s definitely something that we’ve been developing for awhile and we feel that it should be made.  The fact that he was just captured makes it very timely.  But we’ve been dedicated and have wanted to make that movie before that happened, but that just reinforces our reasons for why that story should be told.

It is pretty interesting that he was captured not too far away from where we are right now.

Oliver:  Yeah.  I never would have thought that they would have caught him at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

I’m very curious about the Whitey Bulger project.  It seems to me that the gangster/criminal genre or whatever that “genre” is called is insanely popular.  What do you think it is about that genre that makes it so popular on TV and in movies?

Oliver:  I don’t know.  Crime, whether it is in books or in films, has always been one of the number one topics.  I think people are obsessed with crime, criminals, the criminal nature, and why people do what they do.  I don’t know if I have the answer other than “I like it.”  I think it makes for good movies.  I think that people are obsessed with the criminal element and why people do what they do.  There is also some kind of weird admiration for gangsters, you know?  You can look through history and find people who are criminals, but yet they were likable criminals.  You know, there is Robin Hood.  I know we have seen the other side of that, but he is stealing from the rich and giving to the poor – there is that element.  But it even goes all the way back to Scarface, which I think is a great movie, but he is Scarface.  But I don’t know.  There is that weird obsession, but there has also been great movies made about them, and I think there will be a lot more.

black-mass-book-coverWhat is pretty interesting about Whitey Bulger is that he was pretty nasty, but he also went through the spectrum, if you know what I mean.  Are you guys looking at the full story or are you looking at a specific angle or moment in his life?

Oliver:  It’s a little bit hard to tell that story without having someone in the full thing because you need to know where he came from and where he ended up.  But I think we’re focusing more on after his rise in the Irish mob and being a boss, and how he basically was going down until he made this corrupt deal with the FBI.  It was through that deal that he manipulated the FBI into being his servants and basically wiped out the La Cosa Nostra in New England, and then there was his escape.  I think that’s the story that we want to tell.  It’s how something like that could happen – how the FBI can become part of one of the biggest scandals in United States history.

It is a crazy story.

Oliver:  It is and it’s a great story, and it is a story that should be told.  I think it will be and we are excited to be the ones hoping to do that.

Are there rights involved with his life that you have to get?  How does that work with something like that?

Oliver:  No.  We optioned the book that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, which I think is the only real source on the material.  Those were the guys that were the reporters for The Globe.  They were basically the ones that figured out the legal deal between the FBI and Whitey Bulger and the informant stuff.  It is about how it risked their life, the death threats, and how they were the ones that brought the attention to what was going on.  So they were obviously the right people to write the book, and they wrote an amazing book.

benjamin-franklin-imageTV seems to be a huge thing nowadays with all channels airing original content and there are some incredible shows.  Is TV something that you guys are possibly thinking about getting into?

Oliver:  You know, we are always looking at every media outlet for films, television, and stories.  But we don’t have a dedicated TV division as of yet.  We have been approached by a couple of people about starting something like that.  I know how to make movies and I know a little bit about TV.  It’s definitely not my expertise so it would have to be something where we bring somebody in to kind of set it up and run because my bandwith is only so much and I like what I am doing.  I do think there is a huge upside in TV.  It is a great medium to reach the masses.  So it is obviously something that we are looking at.  Do we have any TV shows in development?  No.  Not for now.  But we may soon.

I want to ask you about The Hellfire Club.  Is that still bubbling?

Oliver:  Yeah.  The Hellfire Club is something we have been developing for awhile.  It is a great story and that is a true story.

Is that really true?  I looked at the synopsis that you guys have on the site and that synopsis is crazy.

Oliver:  Yeah.  It’s a true story.  Benjamin Franklin was actually the Post Master General of the United States and he was sent to England to stop the Stamp Act because we all know that’s what started the Revolutionary War.  When he got there he got sidetracked a bit and he started hanging out with the kind of hippies of that generation in London.  There was Sir Francis Dashwood and these blue blooded English guys that were running the government there, and he ended up being in these sex parties in the caves and in all of this craziness that went on.  But there’s a story within that because they then rebelled against the government and they were going to try to take Ben Franklin to trial for treason.  He was able to escape the country and come back to the United States, and then he participated in the war.  It’s kind of crazy that the whole thing is true.  There was a great little article about it in Time Magazine two years ago.  The cover is Ben Franklin and you can read about it.  Ben Franklin is an interesting guy and I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a feature film made already about him.

The final thing I wanted to ask you about is that you mentioned you are working with Eli Roth.  He is producing one of them, but is he directing the other one?

Oliver:  No.  He is writing it and maybe he is starring in it.

I was going to ask what it would take to get him behind the camera again.

Oliver:  He has something that he wants to do.  We have been talking to him about it.  It’s great, actually.  He is just working on the script and then I think early next year he will be directing it.

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