A former lit agent who boasted one of the most enviable client lists in town (Martin Scorsese, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Fernando Meirelles), John Lesher has put his talent relationships to good use as a studio exec.
In his few years at the helm of Paramount Vantage — after departing Endeavor in late 2005, where he was a partner — he’s managed to usher films such as “Babel” (seven Oscar noms, one win) and “An Inconvenient Truth” (two noms, two wins) through the 2006 awards season, as well as build a daring slate of films.
That slate, which kicked off in earnest with former client Michael Winterbottom’s “A Mighty Heart” in Cannes last year, kept on paying dividends in 2007. While “Mighty” proved less so at the box office, high critical praise for Angelina Jolie extended well into awards season.
Another Cannes bow for Lesher was “No Country for Old Men” (a Scott Rudin-produced pic that was a rights split with Miramax), on which Vantage was the lead studio and took foreign distribution rights.
Along the way, other Vantage pics such as “Into the Wild” and “The Kite Runner” were admired, but the crowning moment came late in the year with “There Will Be Blood” (also a Miramax split) — helmed by another former Lesher client, Paul Thomas Anderson. Though a tentative, kid-glove approach initially led to a few furtive screenings before its December premiere, “Blood” eventually ran dark and deep, lapping up eight Oscar nominations — the same number as “No Country.”
Seemingly simultaneously, Lesher’s star ascended another notch at Paramount. As the newly anointed head of Paramount Film Group, Lesher recently assumed the top creative spot at one of Hollywood’s most vaunted studios. He now has creative control over Par’s pic labels Paramount Films, MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Vantage.