Breakthrough pics: “Wedding Crashers,” “Van Wilder”
What I learned the hard way: “Just focus on what you’re doing, not what someone else is doing. When it’s your time, things will happen for you.”
Panay, who came up with the idea for the summer smash “The Wedding Crashers,” is refreshingly honest about his taste for mainstream entertainment. “Growing up, I loved going to the big summer blockbusters and the comedies. I was never someone who sought out smaller bands or films. I always went to the films that were mass marketed and listened to Top 40 radio.”
After graduating from Cal State Northridge, he worked for Accelerated Chart Movement, checking stock of music CDs over the phone. He recalls a day when he got called to do some P.A. work on “A Pyromaniac’s Love Story.” “I went into work at my regular job, which was a music company, so I changed from my hip-hop attire into a dress shirt and pants for a few hours, and then changed back. My job was getting Joey Lawrence water for a test shoot. He was the first star I ever met.”
He worked at Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures. At 26, he became a director of development at Tapestry Films, working with partners Robert L. Levy and Peter Abrams. Says Panay: “They gave me the environment to help nurture what I do.”
Says Levy, “He has the instinct for what the audience wants to see. He knows what stories have an emotional quotient that will draw actors and directors to a project and also draw audiences.”
“He has a great combo of tenacity and creativity,” says New Line’s Richard Brenner. “And once a project is set up, he’s got a great work ethic. ”
He has several comedies in development, including “Sweet Child of Mine” at Paramount, “The Other Guy” at Disney and a project with writer Kevin Bisch (“Hitch”).
“I’m really passionate about giving people a great time at the movies, just give them two hours of escape,” he says.