Hess ankles WMA, rises at Phoenix

Rick Hess has ankled the William Morris Agency to join Sony-based Phoenix Pictures as senior executive vice president in charge of production, it was announced Wednesday by Phoenix chairman Mike Medavoy and president Arnie Messer.

Since joining WMA in 1994, Hess was a key member of the agency’s independent film division, founded by Cassian Elwes, who remains in charge of the department.

The move reunites Hess with Medavoy, who first brought Hess into the motion picture business as a creative exec when Medavoy headed TriStar Pictures in 1990.

“We’re thrilled that Rick is joining our company,” said Medavoy. “His financial expertise and creative contributions at William Morris helped change the face of agenting and independent filmmaking.”

“Mike was my mentor from the beginning,” said Hess. “He’s a magnet for artists because of his loyalty to their vision. I’m looking forward to helping him continue to build this company.”

At WMA, Hess specialized in packaging indie projects for agency clients. As part of that effort, Hess helped position writers and actors from the agency’s roster as first-time directors; those projects include “Albino Alligator,” helmed by Kevin Spacey; “Trees Lounge,” directed by Steve Buscemi; “The Arrival,” helmed by scripter David Twohy; and the upcoming “Players Club,” marking the directorial debut of Ice Cube for New Line.

“My time at William Morris gave me the opportunity to make more movies happen than I ever could have as a producer or studio exec,” Hess told Daily Variety. “Now it’s time for me to be more closely involved with the entire creative process.”

Since opening its doors in late 1995, Phoenix has produced Barbra Streisand’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and Oliver Stone and Milos Forman’s “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” currently in release. The company finances all of its own projects through a long-term deal with Sony worldwide, Canal Plus and Showtime, with a $125 million line of credit from Chase bank.

Upcoming films from Phoenix include “Apt Pupil,” directed by Bryan Singer; “Amy Foster,” from helmer Beeban Kidron; and an untitled Stone film starring


Daily Variety, January 10, 1997

Sean Penn and Nick Nolte.

Prior to joining WMA, Hess partnered with Eric Pleskow and Barry Spikings in

putting together their production company. Before relocating to the West Coast,

Hess was a real estate developer in Boston.

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