Panel: Shaye, Payne applaud Nicholson

Duo decry MTV directing, lack of emotional voice

“About Schmidt,” which bows in competition Wednesday, was just what New Line Cinema was looking for according to New Line Cinema’s co-chairman/co-CEO Bob Shaye, “I think there should be a menu of movies available. ‘About Schmidt’ is part of a balanced diet.”

The pic’s helmer, Alexander Payne, who co-penned “Schmidt” with Jim Taylor, developed the project for Sony Pictures but “not specifically for Jack (Nicholson). When Sony passed, (production prexy) Amy Pascal quickly and graciously let me take it and I accepted New Line’s bid.”

Payne and Shaye shared the stage at the Variety Exclusive interview sesh on Monday, talking about “About” with Variety publisher Charlie Koones.

Both had high praise for the star, who’s making his first Croisette appearance in 30 years. “This was my first time with a huge star,” Payne said, “and Jack was always professional. He was great, just great.”

On the current wave of new directors, Shaye lamented “too many are trying to emulate MTV; they’re less interested in dealing with actors and stories.”

Payne bemoaned “the lack of emotional voice in the last 20 years, a sense of seeing real Americans in the cinema instead of movie stars doing movie star-ish things.” Shaye agreed, noting, “if you can get a great story and actors who deliver the goods, you don’t need MTV cutting and so on.”

With New Line now part of AOL Time Warner, Shaye thinks “our mindset is still to do our own thing and be different than Warner Bros. But I’m glad to know we don’t have to hustle and the marketing capability is there.”

Talk then moved to “Lord of the Rings,” with Shaye explaining presales and other deals limited exposure to around $30 million on each $100 million picture.