Producer pair backs two high-profile pix

Douglas Wick made his producer debut with 1988’s “Working Girl,” and he admits, “I started off spoiled with Mike Nichols directing.”

Now Wick produces with his wife, Lucy Fisher, the spoil streak continues with two other legit-turned-movie directors, Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall. The two are the respective helmers on “Jarhead” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” a duo that has landed Wick and Fisher the Hollywood Awards producers honor for 2005.

Nichols won the Academy Award with his sophomore effort, “The Graduate” (1968), while Mendes (winner for 2000’s “American Beauty”) and Marshall (nominated for 2003’s “Chicago”) earned Oscar attention right out of the gate after years of toiling on the boards. At the time of their movie debuts, Mendes had been the longtime artistic director of London’s Donmar Warehouse and Marshall had clocked in several terp credits on Broadway. In 1998, the two talents even collaborated on the Roundabout’s revival of “Cabaret,” which went on to run over 2000 performances at Studio 54.

But back to Hollywood. “We didn’t do it deliberately,” Fisher says of signing two theater directors. But it makes perfect sense. “They are both performance-oriented movies, and nobody loves actors like theater directors.”

Fisher also mentions their innate showmanship. “They’re aware of their partnership with the audience. The audience is their partner. In the theater it is a preview every night.”

According to Fisher, ” ‘Geisha’ was always conceived as an artistic movie, but we wanted it to be accessible. And Rob knows how to make a show out of anything.”

In her opinion, Mendes brings a theatricality to “Jarhead,” much as he did with “American Beauty,” which otherwise “it could have been a small movie.”

The Hollywood Awards must agree, giving the helmer the director award for 2005.

In the end, theater directors are nice to have around on the set, says Wick. “They really make the movie a community, which makes the moviemaking so much more enjoyable.”

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