Q&A With Harvey and Bob Weinstein
Bob and Harvey Weinstein
The provocative pair, who have struck out on their own with a new boutique media company,
talk about the business and the hot filmmakers they're keeping an eye on
By Jeffrey Ressner
Posted Monday, Dec. 11, 2006
Independent film fans need no introduction to Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the brothers who founded Miramax and its sister company, Dimension. From small, intimate films like sex, lies and videotape and The Crying Game to flashy game-changers including Pulp Fiction and the $300 million-grossing Chicago, the Weinsteins proved smart little pictures (as well as smart big ones) could find a wide audience if promoted properly. After leaving longtime corporate parent The Walt Disney Co. last year, the provocative pair have struck out on their own once more with a new boutique media concern simply called The Weinstein Company. TIME’s Jeffrey Ressner spoke to the brothers about their year-old enterprise.
TIME: When you signed the final farewell contracts with Disney, you took a bunch of the Mouse House employees out to a fancy dinner. Why?
HARVEY WEINSTEIN: We were trying to say that even though we signed those contracts, good times were ahead. We needed to be independent of them for our own entrepreneurial spirit and they needed to be more corporate to maintain the strength of their company. We were a good fit, but in course it had run out. It was a fun way to end everything.
What was the biggest lesson you learned there?
BOB WEINSTEIN: We got to see how they did it, and we learned a lot from their executives. We built a library during that time, and that was something we always wanted to do.... Look, we had autonomy when we were at Disney, and operated as our own company even when we were within the Disney sphere. Other than some instances where they didn’t release our films, such as Dogma and Fahrenheit 9/11, we were given freedom.
With all your various operations going on, are you still as nimble and aggressive when it comes to individual movie acquisitions?
HARVEY: We snagged the most sought-after title at the American Film Market, which was the Wong Kar Wei movie starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Norah Jones. That showed nimbleness. At Toronto, between Penelope and the Vince Vaughn movie, we were right there where he had to be.
Miramax was known for working with new, talented directors ranging from Kevin Smith to Guillermo del Toro. Anyone out there now you’re keeping an eye on?
HARVEY: We signed Doug Atchisonm who did Akeelah and the Bee, to a new deal.
BOB: We have one and two picture deals with filmmakers we like. Rob Zombie is doing a remake of Halloween for us, and we’ve signed to do a second picture with Mikael Hafstrom called 1408, which based on a Stephen King short story.
Overall, how has the change from having a corporate parent affected you, and what’s it like being an indie again?
HARVEY: People who see us say we look happier and younger. We feel good that we can do all the cool things we want to do.... In one week, we had a party in New York where the Eagles performed to celebrate Wal-Mart's commitment to environmental sustainability, then we opened Bobby with a star-studded premiere in Hollywood. We've taken periodic odysseys across America and internationally to build partnerships with RAI Television in Italy and TF1 in France and ARD in Germany. We're laying down an infrastructure.
BOB: What’s giving us a new feeling now is the acquisition of companies and the opportunity to be broader-based in what we do in media. We’re being introduced to a lot of people we didn’t have access to when we were at Disney.
Has Michael Eisner asked you to appear on his CNBC talk show yet?
HARVEY: Yes. (pause)
HARVEY: I’m not sure the timing is right. It’s certainly something we’d consider at some point.