When New Line Cinema’s president of production Michael De Luca was asked where he thought he ranked in showbiz, the exec replied, “I go back and forth. On good days, I feel like P.T. Barnum, but with a better circus. On bad days, I feel like Fatty Arbuckle, but with better lawyers.”
Monday was one of the good days. De Luca, an exec who’s known as much for his casual dress as his filmmaking acumen, was honored at Atlantic as Variety’s 1999 Showman of the Year.
The engraved glass sculpture was presented by Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, who said: “At a time when studios give the head of production job to number-crunchers and suits, it’s all the more appropriate to be honoring someone who’s not a suit. He’s not even a shirt.”
In his acceptance, De Luca complimented his New Line co-workers and said: “It’s a myth that I’m a stand-alone unit”; noted that Daily Variety was “my favorite trade”; and ended with: “The best part of having your life distilled to a 10-page insert is they leave out the bad parts.”
While guests mingled and dined on pasta, New Line chairman Bob Shaye praised De Luca’s “affinity.” Warner Bros.’ Lorenzo di Bonaventura said the honoree has “taken free-soloing to new heights.” Writer-director Gary Ross said the exec’s enthusiasm made him “infectious and effective.” Fine Line president Mark Ordesky cited De Luca’s film knowledge by saying, “Mike is to movie trivia what Warren Buffett is to stock picking.”
Chris Lee recalled the time he and De Luca were co-hosting an Oscar party and Lee’s staff “thought Mike was going to be the reincarnation of Don Simpson. But he came in a suit and was a perfect gentleman — much to the disappointment of everyone I knew.”
Among those on hand were Variety’s U.S. publishing director Charles Koones, New Line president Michael Lynne, U’s Scott Stuber, J.C. Spink, Chris Fenton and Jay Polstein.
De Luca said what made the award especially gratifying is “for anyone to notice. It makes you feel really good. You’re inside the factory. You’re running the assembly line that makes the thing and sometimes it gets really lonely. When someone says ‘I like what comes out of your factory and you do it really well.’ You say, “Thanks for noticing.” And then you go right back to your hovel in the factory.”