European talent is part and parcel of the biz
Without Europeans, especially Eastern European immigrants, Hollywood wouldn’t exist.
Trans-atlantic ties are stronger than ever today, so it’s little wonder that European talent is part and parcel of the biz. But Hollywood is not Novgorod, so what happens when worlds collide?
1. Dealmaking: Finn-ish producer and longtime Renny Harlin collaborator Markus Selin observes, “Whereas in Finland you shake hands, in L.A. it’s a 200-page contract!” After a rapid learning curve (“I got totally screwed!”), Selin now tries “to bring Scandinavian honesty” to the table. “What’s agreed is agreed,” Selin says. “It shouldn’t be like a divorce court.”
Not that there aren’t lawyers in Europe and, yes, they’re steadily seizing control here, too.
2. Writing: Euro helmers and writers are often one and the same. CAA picked up Hungarian Nimrod Antal after his black comedy “Kontroll” took the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes 2004.
Now co-writing a script with Michael Leeson for Focus Features, Antal finds Hollywood “takes more effort to get a script out, but you invest more effort in it. In Hungary you have immediacy. Here (in Hollywood) you have to convince a lot of people so the script has to be better.”
3. Producing: Europeans, experts on subsidized coin and tortuous multinational agreements, must be envying Turkish-German producer Mennan Yapo.
He’s in pre-production on “Premonition” with Sandra Bullock, which gives him reason to rejoice: “It’s fully financed by Hyde Park Entertainment. It’s amazing!”
Scotsman Stuart Pollok, head of production at Studio Hamburg Intl. Production, lauds Hollywood for its “commercial ideas, brilliant screenwriting and business-first mentality.”
4. Directing: Says Teuton thesp Diane Kruger, whose face launched a thousand ships in last year’s “Troy,” aided Nicolas Cage in his quest for a “National Treasure” and will entertain the troops in “Merry Christmas”: “A lot of directors, at least in France, write their own film scripts, so I think they tend to be much more involved in what they are doing. Now, I don’t know if that gives them an advantage or not, but I think it can also go the other way — they’re not objective enough.”
5. Behind the lens: D.P.’s are a truly international breed. It helps if they speak English, but since it’s the look of the film that counts, the passport’s color is unimportant.
Same with other below-the-line crew. Editor Pietro Scalia has just finished “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Born in Sicily, raised in Switzerland and now a U.S. citizen, Scalia’s credits include “JFK,” “Black Hawk Down” (for which he won Oscars), “Salvador,” “Talk Radio,” “Born on the 4th of July” and “Good Will Hunting.”
“I’ve always been a foreigner wherever I was,” Scalia says. “I’ve lived longer in the U.S. than Europe but remained in touch with my roots. I bring a life experience shaped by culture, upbringing, history, language, customs — it’s all enriching. When we deal with film, we create emotions with a universal language.”
6. Actors: Many a big (insert country of choice here) thesp has returned home from Hollywood to get divorced or take up directing. But while there are enough U.S. actors who can make wiv ze crazee foreign akzents, the door is always open.
Kruger jokes, “(It’s) like I’m in Candyland whenever I’m in Hollywood! That’s what I feel like — a movie star! But as a young actor and especially as a woman, I definitely still get better parts in Europe than I do in America. ‘Merry Christmas,’ for example, would have been impossible for me to get in America right now.”
Her co-star Benno Furmann, who was in Brian Helgeland’s 2003 pic “The Order,” finds “the script’s the thing, but for me as an actor there is not so much difference between a U.S. or German or European production.”
7. The Really, Really Big Difference: Kruger, who works both sides of the Atlantic, notes: “There is definitely a lot less money in Europe, and it’s definitely not as lavish as in Hollywood. I think actors in America don’t necessarily always appreciate how well they’re treated. It’s just such luxury! You get picked up in a limousine every morning, and you have great trailers. It’s fantastic!”
That “lot less money” means thesps in Europe also have to do more work.”European films tend to be obviously smaller,” says Kruger, “so there’s a lot more to do. We don’t have stand-ins, so whenever you see only your hand or your foot, it’s definitely, you know, the actor’s foot.”
8. Catering: Given Hollywood’s budgets, the food is going to be good. But in Europe, the good news is that food is a source of national pride in France, Italy and Spain, and the Germans, Poles and Czechs make a mean sausage. Jack Black, in Berlin to promote “King Kong,” demonstrated a masterly grasp of the German word for pork, Schweinefleisch, while Joaquin Phoenix admits, “I never think much about food. You get half an hour and kinda just put the stuff in. I don’t remember what any of it tastes like!”