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September 07, 2000 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-09-07

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-A RTS The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2000 --19A
*Meet Jim Gianopulos, Hollywood powerbroker and Fox exec.

The Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD Jim Gianopulos is a virtual
unknown in Hollywood. And yet he just became one of
the most powerful executives in the movie business.
With his recent appointment to become one of two
chairmen of 20th Century Fox's Filmed Entertainment
group along with colleague Tom Rothman, Gianopulos
joins an elite cadre of studio bosses empowered to
decide which movies get made and wren, with what tal-
ent and at what cost.
Pretty heady stuff for someone who has never put
together a single movie or overseen its development and
"At 6 in the morning Fm up asking myself, 'Is this
really happening?"' says Gianopulos, 48, a humble
though highly driven executive. Up until three weeks
ago, he had been in charge of Fox's international the-
atrical business -- selling movies and videos outside
the United States for the last six years. Before that, he
headed the studio's worldwide pay-TV operations.
His ascension to the top movie job - despite his lack
of direct movie-production experience _ underscores
the growing significance of the overseas market to Hol-
lywood studios, especially when their owner is as glob-
ally minded as Fox's media-giant parent News Corp.,
run by Rupert Murdoch.
Gianopulos has spent most of his 20-year career
working on the international side of the business for
*companies that also included Paramount Pictures,
RCA/Columbia Pictures and Carolco Pictures.
As president of 20th Century Fox International, he,
helped rebuild the studio's moribund global division
into a distribution powerhouse that for the last three
years has generated annual foreign box-office revenue
;n excess of S1 billion.
Bill Mechanic, who preceded Gianopulos and Roth-
man and was recently fired over strained relations with
Murdoch, came from a similar discipline, having
worked for years as head of Disney's international busi-

ness. Mechanic had worked closely with Gianopulos in
resuscitating Fox's once-demoralized, under-performing
international movie division, which in the early 1990s
suffered from a lack of product and financial support
from the then-financially ailing News Corp.
Unlike Rothman, who's well-known from his many
years as a senior-level creative executive at Fox and
other studios, Gianopulos is a stranger to many in Hol-
lywood and unfamiliar with its politics and inner work-
ings. But then, the very instant he as promoted,
Gianopulos received as many congratulatory calls as
Rothman from industry power brokers who had never
before dialed his number.
When asked whether he is daunted by the inevitable
pressures of the new job (Mechanic was ousted after
some big films lost money), Gianopulos says: "My
experience is that everyonefinds it daunting because it's
the least precise, most subjective aspect of the business.
You can do calculations, read P&Ls (profit and loss
statements), but ultimately it's about believing in the
talent of a filmmaker, translating and executing the
vision with that filmmaker and bearing the risk of that
As head of international, Gianopulos forged close
relationships with such notable directors as Jim
Cameron, Bobby and Peter Farrelly and Baz Luhrmann,
but admittedly was just an "observer" of the filmmak-
ing process rather than a participant.
But Fox, like other studios today, recognizes the
importance of international business to its overall rev-
enue stream and thus would always consult Gian'opulos
about a project's potential earning power overseas when
deciding whether to green-light a particular movie.
'In today's environment you can't ignore what at
times is two-thirds of the business on big films,"
Gianopulos says.
In many cases, the films in which Gianopulos over-
saw the international marketing and distribution at Fox
more than doubled their U.S. grosses, including such
costly domestic flops as 'The Beach," ''Fight Club"

and "Speed 2." Even more modestly budgeted hits such
as 'The Full Monty" and ''William Shakespeare's
Romeo & Juliet" did substantially more business over-
Hanging on Gianopulos' office wall is.a framed
poster in Greek of ''Titanic" signed by director
Cameron: ''Jim G, you rule the world! Jim C." The
Fox/Paramount co-production was the highest grossing
film of all time, with a worldwide take of $I.& billion,
of which S 1.23 billion was made overseas.
"Titanic" producer Jon Landau credits Gianopulos
with "being able to get a much higher percentage of
gross from international than any of the other studios."
He also credits Gianopulos with being the impetus
behind the plan to hold the world!premiere of 'Titanic"
at the Tokyo Film Festival, which was a controversial
move at the time but helped create a huge frenzy prior
to the film's U.S. debut.
"He really understands the marketing and public
demand of a movie and will take each movie and ana-
lyze it beyond what it did domestically," Landau says.
Luhrmann, who directed the hip, modern-day version
of the classic romance "Romeo & Juliet" and Fox's
upcoming holiday release "Moulin Rouge," concurs
that Gianopulos' unwavering support of his offbeat
movies and "groundbreaking visions about the growth
of the international market" have been of great value to
him as a filmmaker.
So, what's the secret to all this success?
''There's no real secret," Gianopulos says. "It starts
with the reality that there's a very big world out there _
huge audience potential that can be tapped," referring to
an overseas market of more than 5 billion people com-
pared with about 300 million in the United States.
"You have all the benefit of the insight, strategy and
quality of advertising materials that were done domesti-
cally and then the opportunity to see what went right
and what went wrong and translate that internationally,"
Gianopulos says.
Considered smart, methodical, energetic and some-

one who always aspires for perfection, Gianopulos qan
be a tough, demanding boss who at the same time' is
known to be very loyal to his troops and devoted to his
Apparently, he cap also have quite a temper.
"I'm not incapable of it," admits Gianopulos, wJio
prefers to think;"of himself in a slightly different light.
"There's a character to being Greek which includes
being passionate and excitable. You can argue passion-
ately, but it's never, ever personal, and when it's over,
it's over," Gianopulos said.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gianopulos says he derived
his work ethic and drive from his late father, a first-
generation Greek who came to America in the early
1950s and started a marine and industrial equipment
manufacturing business .
It's little wonder that Gianopulos, who spoke Greek
as a child and grew up in a multicultural environment,
eventually found himself working in international busi-
After graduating from tNew York's Fordham Law
School in the mid-1970s and briefly practicing law, he
landed his first entertainment industry job as director of
business affairs for the American Society of Comm-
posers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP), negotiating
music rights deals for songwriters.
Just as the video business started to take off in the
early '80s and the issue of how to'compensate tmisic
rights became a big concern in Hollywood, Gianopulos
was hired away from ASCAP by RCA/Columbia Pic-
tures International Video. He was recruited by Para-
mount just as pay TV exploded internationally.
"I was always in these media businesses as they
launched," says Gianopulos; who in 1992 was hired by
Fox to run international TV and worldwide pay TV and
was involved in the early distribution platforms Mur-
doch was launching.
Gianopulos says he's worked an entire career for the
opportunity to head a movie studio.
"I've been rehearsing for it for 20 years."

*Folk singer Elliott
spotlighted in new
documentary film

The Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES - Legendary folk
singer and storyteller extraordinaire
Ramblin' Jack Elliott is never at a loss
for words. In fact, in the award-winning
documentary "The Ballad of Ramblin'
Jack," Elliott's longtime friend Kris
Kristofferson jokes that the folkie got
his nickname not because of his
nomadic wanderings, but from his ram-
bling conversations.
* But he has been at a loss when it.
comes to talking with his daughter,
filmmaker Aiyana Elliott, who directed,
produced and co-wrote the documen-
tary. During the three years she spent
making the film, she tried repeatedly to
get Elliott to open up and talk about
their relationship. He never would.
After completing the film, Aiyana,
who was born in 1969, came to the con-
clusion that their relationship would
never change. Elliott would never talk
about the fact that he was a less than
fantastic father, that he was barely
around while she was growing up. And
she still didn't know him even as an
"I felt I would have to accept our
relationship as it is," she says, during a
recent joint interview with her father
in Los Angeles.
"Making the movie was very diffi-
cult. But then since completing the
film, though, I think we have had good
talks. I think we had a big break-
through about six days ago."
Elliott, who at 69 resembles Gene
Kelly in his later years, perks up when
Aiyana mentions the breakthrough.
"Where was that?" he asks her. "Was
I there?"
Trying to find out about the break-
through takes a while as Elliott lives
up to his ramblin' reputation.
Question: So how did the break-
through happen?
"I don't know," says Aiyana, look-
ing over at her father, who is sitting

next to her in a conference room at the
office of the film's publicists. "Maybe
because my other dad was
there.Maybe that helped."
"He's always very helpful," adds
Elliott. "I call him my brother-in-law
for lack of a better term."
"He's Jerry Kaye," explains Aiyana.
"In the movie, we call him a friend, he
was a friend of Jack's, but he's more
than that.
"Jerry, he was the real hero of this
story," says Aiyana. "The fact that
Jerry provided some great stability
enabled me to appreciate my dad for
what he had to offer,"
Question: Well, what happened six
days ago'?
"We were in New York for the pre-
miere," says Aiyana. "Jerry was there."
"That was a big thing," pipes in
Elliott. "I was thrilled with that."
Question: So what happened at the
"We were in New York and Jerry was
there and we were sitting around and
my dad just started telling me he appre-
ciated what I was doing'" says Aiyana,
beaming ever so slightly as she glances
over at her dad.
"He thought we had gotten to know
each other better making the movie and
he had gotten to respect me and what
we had done."
"I don't know why, but I get really
sad when I think of a time when he
might not be around," she says. "I think
part of it is because my dad is some-
body who has lived life to the fullest
and really enjoys life and because there
is nobody around to tell the stories he's
telling. There is no one like him."
Staring at the window, Elliott inter-
rupts his daughter: "I am going to have
to write some songs," he proclaims.
"The time has come to try to write
some songs. I don't know what it is
about me, lazy I guess. I don't have a


Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times
Alyana Elliott poses with her father, folk singer Ranblin' Jack Elliott.
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