Despite having a life span less than four decades Irving G. Thalberg is just as legendary as moguls and producers such as The Warner Brothers, Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures, David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Walt Disney. The latter three would eventually become recipients of the award that is named in Thalberg’s honor. Thalberg possessed incredible initiative and an unmatched work ethic that was so intense that it induced a heart attack while overseeing the editing of the 1925 version of Ben Hur.
The Irving G. Thalberg is awarded periodically at the Academy Awards ceremonies to "Creative Producers”, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production. The visionaries below embody all the qualities that will continue to set the bar for superb films. Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Spike Lee, Graham King are a select few who are also worthy of being considered for The Irving G. Thalberg Award. Perhaps we will include these individuals and more on a later date in a follow-up article.
Kathleen Kennedy is a talented mogul that has certainly paid her dues to the entertainment industry. Kennedy began her film career working at various California based television stations after graduating from San Diego State University. Her experience in programming and communications landed her an entry-level job at Amblin Entertainment. Her lackluster typing skills were an easy trade-off for her extraordinary production ideas. Kennedy is the 2nd most financially successful producer of all-time after her friend and colleague Steven Spielberg; who was awarded the Honorary Oscar in 1987. She is a demonstration of going from the mailroom as the “gofer” person to a top-level executive.
Kennedy’s collaborations with the highly influential and respected Steven Spielberg oddly enough have not won her an academy award. She served as an executive producer on Schindler’s List instead of producer, and the statuette went to Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen. Her next chance(s) will be with the upcoming War Horse and the 2012 Lincoln. Her non-Spielberg collaborations are also not too shabby, which includes Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Cape Fear, and Signs.
Christopher Nolan and Wife Emma Thomas
“If you have that vision and want that vision, then it may be difficult, but it is not impossible”. The previous quote was from David Keighly, the Vice president of IMAX. Keighly is speaking of Christopher Nolan’s vision of shooting The Dark Knight in 70mm IMAX. IMAX is an outstanding use of technology to give the audience the most immersive experience possible. But for Christopher Nolan there is no vision without story. Nolan has been intrigued with cinema since his childhood while experimenting with a Super 8mm camera that his father purchased. After graduating with a B.A. in English Literature from the University College London, Nolan collaborated with old college friends to film Following. Following gave the world insight on future aspects to come from a man whom is the master of non-linear psychological story telling, neo-noir, and practical visual effects. In regards to practical visual effects, Nolan takes great pride in improving upon the revolutionary cinematic worlds created by Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick. Nolan carefully and meticulously uses storyboards and guides his production team to build sets and utilize locations that were never fathomable before. Nolan dedicated hours daily to the film facilities at UCL, and acquired technical skill(s) that even those who went to a top tier film school have not learned.
Emma Thomas met her future husband at University College London, while she was studying History and Nolan studying English Literature. After two years of marriage, the couple produced their first feature length film: Following. Thomas was able to secure a budget to produce the highly acclaimed Memento from NewMarket Films. Major film studios thought that Memento’s script was too laborious for audiences, despite seeing the film’s true potential. The film was a sleeper hit even within a limited release and garnered two Academy Award nominations. After a critically acclaimed and financially successful Insomnia, Thomas produced the first good caped crusader movie: Batman Begins. Thomas handled a $150 million dollar budget and despite being initially shrouded in secrecy, she was invaluable in gaining publicity for the serious and realistic take Batman. The Dark Knight entirely speaks for itself, but Thomas was instrumental in securing the rights to film in Hong Kong. Perhaps was Thomas’ most important contributions were to Inception. She was highly supportive of her husband going back to his Inception script, and tweaking it to near perfection. Thomas also garnered publicity for Inception while at the 2010 Comic Con Convention. She is not simply a tag-along of Nolan’s. She understands the industry and knows what audiences want.
With their combined talent, the couple has the potential to become legendary. They have yet to produce a bad or even mediocre film. The Batman franchise is now taken seriously as a crime saga, like it was intended to be. And many critics and film historians consider Memento and Inception to be masterpieces. The husband and wife duo have delivered every project on or ahead of schedule for Warner Bros.
There is not a large amount of information known on this traditional minded modern day mogul. Thomas Tull grew up reading graphic novels and was highly disappointed with the early film representations of Marvel and DC comic books. After undergraduate school, Tull abandoned plans to attend law school and headed to Hollywood. Heading to Hollywood sounds cliché’ but Tull was able to raise $500 million dollars from investment firms to start Legendary Pictures. Since 2005 Legendary Pictures has shared production costs with Warner Bros, which has lead to releases of 300, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Hangover, Inception, and the upcoming Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises. The most profitable studio in the world saw endless potential in the new studio mogul who had not even had his 35th birthday at the time of the signing of the joint venture.
Mr. Tull also serves as an executive producer on some of Zack Snyder's and Christopher Nolan’s films. In the tradition of the Golden Age of Hollywood, he also brings forth original concepts and selects the right director to film the project. Legendary East is a subsidiary that will focus on producing Asian-themed films for Western Audiences. The first product scheduled to come forth from this venture is an Edward Zuwick depiction of the building of the Great Wall of China to defend against the Mongolian Empire. Tull’s success stems from the fact that he was and still is a moviegoer, while still maintaining a capitalist mind-set. He knows that he has parent companies and shareholders to appease; yet he gives the audience a quality product that simultaneously satisfies critics and box office numbers.