Vlife: Familiarity breeds content

As cohorts and consorts, couples cozy up to the biz

Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher remember how they struggled with the decision to make it official, tie the knot, take the leap.

“Initially, neither of us thought it was a good idea,” says Doug, the movie producer.

“I was worried that we’d see each other too much and get sick of each other,” says Lucy, the former studio executive.

Commitment is scary. Even though the two loved each other and knew they were highly compatible, there was one serious problem: They were already married. To each other.

The knot Fisher and Wick were thinking of tying wasn’t matrimonial, but professional. They’d been hitched 13 years and had three kids when they decided to partner in the family business: film production.

Fisher turned down a promotion to chairman of Sony Pictures and instead joined forces with Wick to run Red Wagon Entertainment, the company behind such pictures as “Gladiator” and “Stuart Little.”

That was about two years ago, but now Fisher and Wick are confident in saying their business nuptials seem to be working out.

Red Wagon is about to plunge into one of Fisher’s longtime dream projects, a live-action film of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” among other high-profile pictures, such as “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Wick and Fisher are just two of the better-known members of Hollywood’s partnered partners — those married or significantly-other’d couples who also work together.

Some of these are high in the industry firmament — filmmakers like Lauren and Richard Donner, Richard and Lili Zanuck, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, or Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. But there are couples working together in all areas of the business and at all stages of their careers who have found that the Hollywood version of an office romance can enhance their work as well as personal lives.

“We’ve had our moments writing together where we found our hands around each other’s throats,” says television producer Robin Green, who for the past 10 years has been half of a writing team with mate Mitch Burgess.

Now they’re executive producers of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and this year, they jointly won an Emmy for their writing on the show.

Of course, labor and love isn’t always an award-winning mix, and sometimes things don’t end happily. Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt didn’t last, and the spotlight proved too hot for Roseanne and Tom Arnold, and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. And then there those couples who simply found that there’s such a thing as too much togetherness.

One television writer who developed a pilot with her husband said the daily routine seemed to drain the camaraderie from their marriage. “There was no ‘how was your day, dear,’ because of course we’d spent the whole day together,” she says. “We had nothing to talk about over dinner because we’d already talked about everything.”

Still, almost all of those who successfully double dip say that going into business with their other half greatly reduces job and life stresses.

“If it’s someone you trust to make decisions about your children, you certainly trust them to make decisions about your movies,” Wick says.

There are certainly efficiencies reserved just for working couples, according to Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa. In addition to having plighted their troths to each other, the young writers penned the Mel Gibson romantic comedy “What Women Want,” and now executive-produce the CBS sitcom “The King of Queens.”

“There definitely aren’t the normal divisions between work and home life,” Yuspa begins.

“For instance, everybody has that car ride home from a party where you talk about everyone who was there,” Goldsmith continues.

“But for us the car ride home is what we do for a living,” Yuspa finishes. Everything they do together becomes potential inspiration for a script.

Television writer-producers Andrew Schneider and Diane Frolov have been married for 20 years, and work partners for the last 12.

“The first eight years of our marriage we worked on separate shows, and we found that much harder on the marriage,” says Schneider. They exec-produce Showtime’s “The Chris Isaak Show,” now entering its second year. That means they must spend a good part of each year in Vancouver, away from their L.A. home.

“When you’re on different shows, you never get to see each other — this way we do,” says Frolov.

Still, the couples say, some ground rules are helpful. Inviolable date-nights work for Yuspa & Goldsmith and Green & Burgess. In the Fisher-Wick household, for example, work talk is forbidden after 10 p.m. or before breakfast. Granted, only in America could that be seen as kickin’ back, but hey, they love their work.

Perhaps the idea of working with your spouse can be traced back to American ideals of independence, of homesteading the family farm out in the unknown frontier. Or perhaps it’s a last-ditch effort to protect personal space in a business that commonly demands 15-hour workdays. Or maybe it’s just co-dependence for workaholics. Whatever the source, it’s more than a professional choice.

“I don’t think about it as a business relationship,” says Burgess. “It’s just a way of life — whether it’s better or worse I don’t know. It’s just the way our life is.”