You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Producer deal puts Disney back on laff track

Mouse wins out over studios competing for Simonds

Walt Disney Pictures has made a renewed commitment to comedy, signing producer Robert Simonds to a three-year, first-look deal that will make him among the best paid producers in town.

Simonds was brought into the studio fold by Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group chairman Dick Cook and president Nina Jacobson. Aside from an overhead deal to house his company, Simonds will be paid multiple seven-figure fees against backend, said sources. He’ll also be rewarded if he continues his recent pace.

Simonds will be joined by his company president Tracey Trench, who has exec produced his last six films.

The producer comes to Disney from Universal, where he has been headquartered since 1998 when he produced his first comedy, “Problem Child.” Although he made “Head Over Heels” for U, Simonds recently produced many projects elsewhere, such as “Little Nicky” for New Line, “See Spot Run” for Warner Bros., “Joe Dirt” for Columbia and two for Disney: the in production “Corky Romano,” which stars “Saturday Night Live” castmember Chris Kattan, and “Frank McKlusky, C.I.,” which will open Oct. 12. Those comedies will be the second and third films Simonds has produced for Disney, following the Adam Sandler hit “The Waterboy.”

Disney was among several studios vying for Simonds, and the producer said he chose that studio because he felt he had the greatest chance to make his movies under one roof, and because he’d grown close to Jacobson, Cook, Mark Vahradian and marketing head Oren Aviv. “I can focus my energies with people I really like and trust,” said Simonds. “We’ve developed a shorthand, and I feel supported and protectedat the same time.”

Cook and Jacobson were equally effusive. “Bob’s at the top of his game as a comedy producer and we couldn’t be more excited to have him on the team,” said Cook. “Bob’s been the producer of some of the most successful comedies of the last decade.”

When Simonds began producing low-cost comedies at U, he had the genre mostly to himself. But, with the exception of “Little Nicky,” films like “The Waterboy,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore” almost never lost money and often returned so much of it that Simonds’ stature was elevated, and other studios began cranking out comedies that gambled on comics with movie potential.

Simonds hopes to elevate the quality and conscience of the films he makes at Disney, he said, but he has no plans on lessening the volume. He has at least five projects in advanced stages of development for Disney.

More Film

  • Richard E. Grant, Bo Burnham Clean

    Richard E. Grant, 'Roma' Among Early Winners at 2019 Indie Spirit Awards

    Richard E. Grant, Bo Burnham and “Roma” were among the early winners at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards, held Saturday on the beach in Santa Monica, Ca. Grant took the best supporting male prize for his role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, about celebrity forger Lee Israel, edging out stiff competition in Adam [...]

  • 2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners List

    2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners: Complete List (Updating Live)

    The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards are taking place on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with “We the Animals” topping nominations with five. “Eighth Grade,” “First Reformed,” and “You Were Never Really Here” are up for four each. The Spirit Awards are chosen by the Film Independent’s 6200 members after an anonymous committee votes on nominations. [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Hated It! How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Gripe About the Oscars

    Watching the Academy Awards telecast, then grousing about it the next day, has become a hipster parlor game — it’s what the Complete Oscar Experience now is. The complaints are legion, and we all know what they are, because we’ve all made them. The show was too long. The host bombed. His or her opening [...]

  • Boots Riley arrives at the 34th

    Boots Riley: Spike Lee Yelled at Me After 'BlacKkKlansman' Criticism, But We're Good Now

    “Sorry to Bother You” director and musician Boots Riley, who wrote a scathing criticism of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for its positive representation of law enforcement, said that he and the “Do the Right Thing” auteur are good now. But it took some time (and drama) to get there. Last year, Riley called Lee’s Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman” [...]

  • Dr. Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali, right)

    Read Variety's 1957 Review of 'Green Book' Pianist Don Shirley

    “Green Book” viewers who are not totally versed in the ways of ’50s and ’60s jazz may come away from the heavily Oscar-nominated movie wondering just how well known and respected the film’s central musical figure, Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), really was in his heyday. The answer: revered enough to have picked up [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Steven Spielberg Remembers 'Friend and Early Mentor' Stanley Donen

    As news of the death of prolific director Stanley Donen spread Saturday, the industry was quick to remember the helmer of so many classic musicals. Donen directed such hits as “Singin’ in the Rain,” co-directed with and starring Gene Kelly; “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn; and “Charade,” with Hepburn and Cary Grant. “Stanley Donen was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content