Doing it her way

Robinson once read for movies, now she has the power to make them

Amy Robinson didn’t exactly mean to become a producer.

But she did know from early on that she wanted to make movies. And it didn’t take the sometime-actor many seasons of precarious cold readings to decide that producing offered her a greater degree of control over her own creative fate.

Four years after her supporting turn in Martin Scorsese’s 1973 breakthrough film “Mean Streets,” Robinson co-founded Triple Play Prods. with fellow New York thesps Griffin Dunne and Mark Metcalf and immediately optioned Anne Beattie’s novel “Chilly Scenes of Winter.”

“Within a year we were making the movie,” Robinson says, recalling the actors’ sense of exhilaration at facing a new and different experience.

Certainly among the most appealing differences was that the three were working at all, Dunne points out. “Being three unemployed actors, our forming a company might have smacked of hubris … But we had these projects we wanted to do rather than just sitting on our tails like most of our actor friends.”

“I got hooked,” Robinson states. “When you’re acting, you’re part of the middle of the process and you’re beholden to people for getting a job. Whereas producing encompasses the whole creative process … from the first second to the moment the movie is in the theater.”

From 1982 to 1991 Robinson and Dunne made five films under Gotham-based shingle Double Play Prods. (Metcalf having returned to acting full-time). These include John Sayles’ “Baby It’s You” (co-penned by Robinson), Scorsese’s “After Hours” (starring Dunne), Sidney Lumet’s “Running on Empty,” the Susan Sarandon starrer “White Palace,” and Lasse Hallstrom’s “Once Around.”

“We got along immediately,” Dunne says of working with Robinson. “We had identical tastes. I could turn her on to things I liked and vice versa, and our relationship quickly became a partnership.” While Double Play disbanded after “Once Around,” the two producers have remained close. “I’ve never directed anything that I’ve not asked Amy to see an early rough cut of,” says Dunne.

Speaking of her own career, Robinson says she has few regrets. “I’m the kind of producer that doesn’t develop material unless I feel strongly about it. All the movies I have made, I feel very proud of.”

Among her more ambivalent decisions is remaining in New York, the downside of which has been years of commuting to L.A.

“There are a lot of things I’ve lost for being here,” she says. “But one thing you keep in New York is your freedom of thought. Here you’re not just chasing what everyone else is chasing. In L.A., your vision gets really myopic — gets bounded by the movie business. Being in New York is more natural for me and for the projects I like to do.”

Among the most recent of these projects are Universal’s “For Love of the Game,” which she produced with Armyan Bernstein; and 20th Century Fox’s “Drive Me Crazy,” starring Melissa Joan Hart (and featuring Metcalf). Currently Robinson is working with Gary Lucchesi on MGM’s “Autumn in New York,” directed by Joan Chen and starring Winona Ryder and Richard Gere.

Post-“Autumn,” Robinson will move to Michael Apted’s romance “The Sixteen Pleasures,” set in Florence during the great flood of 1966; HBO original movie “Sounds of the Night,” which she will produce with Madonna; and a television series based on John D. MacDonald’s Detective Travis McGee books, which is now in development at Fox.

“In a way she hasn’t changed at all over the years,” Dunne says of his colleague of two decades after seeing her turn a professional lull into a brand new career. “She has the same wry sense of humor. Her tastes have remained the same — are completely ageless — but in a way she’s mellowed. I think she’s enjoying it more.”