The biggest star of this year’s Cannes Film Festival isn’t Ryan Gosling, Kristen Stewart, Steven Spielberg or any of the other A-listers who have navigated the lights outside the Palais. It’s an obscure Mexican financier named Gaston Pavlovich who managed to pull Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” out of turnaround and then hammer out a $50 million deal for its foreign rights to STX Entertainment.
In an industry with an insatiable thirst for money, the well-heeled Pavlovich not only can fund Scorsese’s passion projects, but he also is able to cobble together a global financing strategy for films that studios might think are too risky. The script for “The Irishman” has been circulating since at least 2009, sources say, but even though it boasts a top-shelf cast that includes Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, its $100 million budget made some potential backers wary. Likewise, “Silence,” the $50 million religious drama that Scorsese will bring out in time for Oscar season this year, couldn’t get a greenlight until Pavlovich wrote a check.
In both cases, Pavlovich was the facilitator. Ironically, despite making the biggest stir at Cannes, prompting a fierce bidding war between the likes of IM Global, Universal, Bloom and Lionsgate, Pavlovich never even made it to the Croisette. He was not on hand in France, as negotiations dragged into the wee hours of Saturday night.
Pavlovich is a relative newcomer to the business. He only produced his first film three years ago — his initial credit came as he established his company, Fabrica de Cine. And though he comes from a well-connected family — his cousin, Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, became the first woman elected as governor of Sonora in 2015 — remains little-known even in his native Mexico.
Pavlovich did not respond to requests for comment. However, those who know him say that he is a man of sincere and deep religious convictions. In one act of philanthropy, he sponsored the life-jacket sculpture at the Berlinale’s 2016 Cinema for Peace initiative.
He also is a true cinephile. One industry insider described Pavlovich as “entrepreneurial, with a genuine love of cinema” and a person with “conservative values.”
But his profile is rising. Alonso Aguilar Castillo, director of the Los Cabos festival, said, “Gaston Pavlovich is quickly becoming one of Mexico’s most active film players.”
He was introduced to Martin Scorsese by WME Global in 2014. His major contribution to getting “Silence” into production was his ability to clear a chain of title. The rights to the story of Jesuit priests in Japan had been entangled for some 26 years. Over that time, it went through multiple iterations as Scorsese tried to get it off the ground with multiple casts.
That persistence was also on display as Pavlovich negotiated with Paramount chiefs to pull “The Irishman” out of turnaround for over a month. The talks dragged on so long and the negotiations were so intricate that some potential buyers doubted that “The Irishman” would ever hit the market in time for bidding to take place.