10 to Watch: Elisabeth Robinson

Tackling an 'egoless' job with bravado

Elisabeth Robinson wears a leather jacket and seems to embrace contradictions. She’s critical of the business but clearly loves it. She lives in New York but knows Hollywood like the back of her hand. She’s book smart and driven but also a bit goofy and irreverent, sometimes preferring to steer the conversation to cooking rather than what she does for a living.

A former Hollywood studio exec who worked her way up from staff reader at United Artists and Lorimar to VP of production at MGM to head of production at Paramount-based the Ladd Co., Robinson is one of a dying breed of literate producers.

Finding and developing smart properties, and getting the director’s movie made, is the heart of producing for Robinson. She calls producing an egoless job that sometimes seems better suited for women than for men: It requires nurturing and bringing out the best in everyone, not competing.

The Sony Pictures Classics release “Last Orders,” starring an ensemble cast that includes Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, was Robinson’s first producer credit.

She recalls staying up all night, while on location on “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” to finish reading “Last Orders.” Upon completing the book, she secretly hoped it was under option by someone else because it would be tough to get made.

When Robinson contacted author Graham Swift, who had just won the Booker Prize, she recalls that he wasn’t inclined to option his book to anyone, let alone an unknown Hollywood producer.

But that’s where her studio contacts paid off. She gave the book to Australian director Fred Schepisi, the pic’s eventu-al director, who helped win over Swift.

“When I look at a piece of material,” Robinson says, “I ask, ‘Is it castable?’ and ‘Is it about something?’ If the answer is yes to both questions, then you go about trying to raise the money to make it — whether it’s $10 million or $100 million.

“My experience as a studio executive has helped me as a producer in a number of ways,” she continues, “but most importantly I think it taught me that a movie is a product that is supposed to make money — it’s not only an artistic expression, though I insist that these are not mutually exclusive.”


Primary credits: “Last Orders” (producer); “Simply Irresistible” (exec producer); “The Man Who Knew Too Little” (exec producer); “Braveheart” (associate producer)

Definition of a producer: “A person who sees a movie in a story, then guides a writer toward the best script he or she can write, helps the director direct the best movie he or she can, and convinces a studio to spend more money than they want — while making sure every step of the way all these people think it was their idea.”

Strengths: New York and London contacts; sense of humor

Achilles’ heel: “I should advertise this?”

More Scene

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

  • Chrissy Metz'Breakthrough' Film Premiere, Arrivals, Regency

    Why 'This Is Us' Star Chrissy Metz Could End Up Performing at the Next Oscars

    Chrissy Metz made her live-singing debut on Sunday when she performed “I’m Standing With You” from her new movie “Breakthrough.” Was that just a step on her way to performing at the Oscars? Could be. The song was written by 10-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren. “They said Chrissy had to sing it and I was [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Disney's Bob Iger Blasts Hateful Political Discourse and Social Media: 'We Can Do Better'

    Bob Iger didn’t mince words while being honored Thursday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Upon receiving the Humanitarian Award at the organization’s National Tribute Dinner from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO delivered a scathing critique of social media and the current state of political discourse. “Hate and anger are dragging us [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content