It’s hard to believe that the man who produced “Revenge of the Nerds,” co-founded the controversial rap label Interscope Records, has thrown parties that would wow Paris Hilton — oh, and is the heir to the Marshall Field’s department store fortune — considers himself a Hollywood outsider.
Yet Ted Field is adamant on the subject: “I don’t think I’m an insider at all,” he says. “Not at all.”
Despite Field’s headline-grabbing resume, within the movie industry he and his company, Radar Pictures, have had a history of quiet consistency rather than flashy, attention-grabbing moves. This aura is perpetuated by the fact that Field rarely speaks to the press.
But Radar is about to increase its profile. The company, which has had a mixed record — there have been such flops as “Son of the Mask” and breakout hits like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake — recently secured a film fund that will allow it to expand to a slate of 25 studio films in the $20 million range over the next five years.
The fund, which is not exclusive to any studio, means that Radar will be upping its output from about three pics a year to five and affords the company the opportunity to expand in other areas. It also means that for the first time Radar will own a percentage of its films. The first project to be backed by the fund — which will put up 50% of production costs — is “Multiple Mary,” a comedy that will be directed by “Old School” scribe Scot Armstrong at New Line.
“Ultimately, if this fund is successful, I have the dream of having more of an integrated entertainment company that would do everything from TV to animation to mobile content,” Field says in his spacious, dark-hued Westwood office.
The fund’s financial partners include JP Morgan & Co., D.E. Shaw & Co. and Kevin Flynn.
Field is matter-of-fact on most subjects, a quality that has defined his 20-year Hollywood career, which is one of the more unwavering trajectories in the business.
Even so, Field remains a conundrum. The 53-year-old says he’s become more socially mellow since the days when he hosted parties at Studio 54 and that his weekends are now spent marching around the mall, going to movies with his kids (he has eight; the result of four previous marriages) and reading scripts in between. Yet he also admits: “I like to go out and socialize at clubs, and occasionally am known to go to places like Hyde.”
He ekes out a barely perceptible grin and adds: “Just occasionally.”
With a shy and avuncular air, Field seems to take an irascible delight in the odd juxtapositions that define his life. Hobbies? Chess and car racing. (He gave up the latter when he had kids.) His choice of movies to produce? “The Amityville Horror” remake and “Le Divorce.”
And though Field is worth an estimated $950 million, money seems besides the point.
“The most interesting thing about Ted, I believe, is he would have been very successful in music and film even if he had not been born with a golden spoon,” says Field’s former producing partner Peter Samuelson. “He is very smart and very ambitious, and one should never play tennis or chess with him. He’s a demon on the court.”
From the beginning, Field’s philosophy has always been to use other people’s money, leveraging cash from studios and record labels to finance his pursuits. Though he has occasionally put some of his own funds into Radar (originally Interscope Communications), the company’s overhead and development is financed by his initial investment. Production costs have always been taken care of by studios, and now, additionally, the fund.
Radar was formed in 1999 when Polygram — which at the time owned a majority stake in Interscope Communications — was sold to Universal. In 2001, Field sold Interscope Records to Universal. Interscope’s film and music divisions couldn’t have been more different in sensibility. While Interscope Records became notorious for introducing gangsta rap to mainstream airwaves, Interscope Communications churned out clean-cut, zeitgeist pics such as “Three Men and a Baby,” “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Cocktail.”
After some executive reshuffling at Radar, a new group is in place with former CAA agent Joe Rosenberg overseeing production. He replaced Scott Kroopf who left in 2004 to run Intermedia’s motion picture group. Radar chief operating officer David Boyle, who arrived in 1999, is the company’s longest-standing exec.
The company’s challenge will be keeping up the pace of five films a year in keeping with the terms of the fund. In recent years, Radar has varied between periods of feast (in 2003 the company released five pics, including “Texas Chainsaw” and “The Last Samurai”) and famine (no films were released in 2001 and 2002). This year Radar’s only film was “Waist Deep,” an urban thriller released by Rogue.
And with partners putting up 50% of production costs, Radar will need to avoid mistakes such as “The Chronicles of Riddick,” a $100 million film that grossed $57 million in the U.S. Radar is filming a remake of “The Heartbreak Kid,” directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly at DreamWorks; and prepping “The Horsemen,” starring Dennis Quaid and Ziyi Zhang.
“The Heartbreak Kid” was long in development and went thorough a series of directors and actors before it finally came together.
DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider calls Field “a good wrangler and strategist” who was key in getting “The Heartbreak Kid” to the starting gate.
“He showed the good taste to buy the rights for a remake in the first place and has had the perseverance to see it get made,” Snider says.
Radar’s relationships with talent are another reflection of Field’s eclectic taste. In addition to Armstrong (who’s now based at New Line), another Radar alum is Michael Bay, whose Platinum Dunes joint venture with Radar resulted in the successful horror remakes, “Texas Chainsaw” and “The Amityville Horror” (Platinum Dunes is now based at Dimension). The most recent addition to the Radar family is Paris Latsis, the Greek shipping heir who is perhaps better known as Paris Hilton’s ex-fiance. Latsis is developing the film “Swing Vote” with Radar.
Of his career making movies, Field says: “It’s never been easy and it doesn’t get any easier. It is not cumulative. It’s not about how many movies you’ve made in the past. I think a lot of success in any business is a combination of persistence, by which I mean just showing up, just continuing to stay in the game.”