Famous Movie Producers You Know And Those You Don’t
Do you know why the Best Picture Oscar is awarded to the producer of the film, not the director? Back when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed in 1927, during the heyday of silent movies, producers were the power brokers in the film industry, so it made sense to award them for the Best Picture. Even today, the producer is where most film projects begin and so the tradition continues. Don’t worry about the director however; they have a comparable Oscar award for the Best Director.
We’ve compiled a list of some of today’s hottest producers in two parts. Part one is famous producers who are also directors; part two is famous producers who are not directors. It demonstrates how the power brokers, at least when it comes to the public perception, in Hollywood have shifted to favor the directors.
Famous Producers Who Are Also Directors
Steven Spielberg. His first film was the 1971 made for TV movie Duel. In 1974 he directed his first feature film, The Sugarland Express. In 1975 he directed Jaws, one of the first summer blockbusters, both of which were produced by David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck. He followed this with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 which was produced by Clark L. Paylow, Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips. The first movies Spielberg produced were I Wanna Hold Your Hand in 1978 and Used Cars in 1980—both of which were directed by Robert Zemeckis. Spielberg’s next film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was produced by Howard G. Kazanjian, George Lucas and Frank Marshall. In 1982, Spielberg wrote and produced (along with Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy) Poltergeist and directed and produced (along with Kathleen Kennedy and Melissa Mathison) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Following the success of these two films, the next two decades saw Spielberg produce, or co-produce The Goonies, Gremlins, Back to the Future, The Color Purple, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Always, Back to the Future Part II, Schindler’s List (for which he won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars), The Mask of Zorro, Men in Black and Saving Private Ryan. Since 2001, Spielberg has served as executive producer on hundreds of episodes of TV series and has numerous film projects in the works.
Francis Ford Coppola. His first big credit was as a screenwriter for the film Patton in 1970 for which he was an Oscar. In 1972 he directed The Godfather. He followed this up with The Godfather Part II in 1974 for which he won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars. In between the two Godfather movies, Coppola produced American Graffiti (directed by George Lucas), Apocalypse Now (which he also directed and co-wrote), Rumble Fish, The Godfather: Part III, and more than 30 other movies since.
Clint Eastwood. He started as a TV actor in Rawhide. After starring in a trio of Spaghetti Westerns as the Man with No Name and as Harry Callahan in a quintet of Dirty Harry movies, Eastwood turned his focus to directing with his first effort Play Misty for Me in 1971. In 1992. Eastwood won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Unforgiven a feat he repeated with 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. To date, Eastwood, who shows no signs of slowing down, has 71 acting credits, 46 producing credits and 41 directing credits to his name.
Famous Producers Who Are Not Directors
Scott Rudin. To date, Rudin has 142 producing credits and has averaged producing five films a year since the 1990s. Among his most well-known movies are No Country for Old Men, Fences, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Zoolander, The Truman Show and The Addams Family.
Harvey Weinstein. As a producer, Weinstein has 328 credits to date yet is best known for the sexual abuse allegations aimed at him and started the #MeToo movement. Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, The Crying Game, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Good Will Hunting, Fahrenheit 9/11, Scary Movie and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Brian Grazer. Grazer lists 179 producer credits to his name, including four movies that were nominated for Best Picture: Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (which won) and Frost/Nixon. Grazer’s initial foray into producing was with the film Night Shift, directed by Ron Howard. This led to Howard and Grazer co-founding Imagine Entertainment. Other films produced by Grazer include 8 Mile, The Da Vinci Code, American Gangster, J. Edgar and The Changeling.
What should be apparent is that if you want to become publicly famous, being a producer is probably not the path you want to take. However, if you want to be wealthy and a force to be reckoned with inside of the film industry, becoming a producer is a great career path to follow—with the added benefit (at least in some eyes) of being able to walk down the street without being recognized.