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‘No Guts, No Glory’: Hollywood Needs to Keep Taking Risks on Original Films (Column)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures movie chief Tom Rothman and I certainly have had our fair share of disagreements over the years, to put it mildly. What do you expect when two alpha personalities clash over a story that one argues is unjust and the other defends as totally sound?

But the other night when I called Rothman after the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” to tell him how much I loved the movie, he was genuinely shocked.

“It’s not the call one gets often — especially from you,” Rothman told me. “When I see that it’s you calling, I think, ‘I must be in trouble!’” (Don’t fret, Tom, there is sure to be more of that type of call in the future.)

For now, I have nothing but praise for Rothman for being willing to take a big financial and creative risk on a highly original movie whose superhero characters are a washed-out actor and his stuntman. (OK, sure, they’re played by the two biggest movie stars in the world, Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, but still.)

I have to say it was also somewhat risky to get into business with a filmmaker who does not direct movies for major studios and who made his last eight pictures for Harvey Weinstein, who has since been accused of rape and sexual assault by multiple women.

I asked Rothman if he had any concerns about that going in.

“Nope” is what he told me. “Quentin, Leo and Brad. That’s like Halley’s Comet.”

No matter how much money “Once Upon a Time” ends up making, Rothman naturally said he has no plans to abandon future installments of “Spider-Man” in favor of filling Sony’s slate exclusively with Tarantino-style films.

He noted that in fact, “Once Upon a Time” was being released the same week that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” would cross the $1 billion mark in global ticket sales. “The demands of the audience are changing and evolving, so we need to reinvigorate our big franchises and invest in original IP.”

He agreed that if Hollywood stops greenlighting original films, everyone will suffer.

“You’ve got to get up to the plate and swing. No guts, no glory.”