Paramount Pictures has named influential production executive Emma Watts president of its motion picture group, studio chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos announced on Tuesday.
The former Twentieth Century Fox leader replaces Wyck Godfrey, who will exit Paramount and transition back to producing film and TV. Watts starts July 20, and will report directly to Gianopulos.
The move reunites Gianopulos with Watts — the two worked together at 20th Century Fox for decades and enjoyed a close collaboration on hit franchises such as “Planet of the Apes” and “Kingsman.” It was Watts’ ability to oversee big, tentpole features that helped earn her the job. Godfrey’s tastes veered more towards the young adult and smaller fare he made his reputation on by producing “Fault in Our Stars” and “Twilight.”
At Paramount he championed the likes of Damien Chazelle’s upcoming Hollywood drama “Babylon” and last year’s hit “Rocketman.” Word in the industry is that he was less interested in the managerial aspects of his job and had signaled to colleagues in recent months that he was unhappy and eager for a change.
In a note to staff, Godfrey noted that his tenure is ending at a time of unprecedented social and political change.
“One thing that the last four months have shown me is that change comes in the most unexpected and unprecedented ways, and we will always have to adapt to those changes in order to press on and survive,” he wrote. “But it’s how we treat each other – our families, our coworkers, our neighbors – that will define us. While I am sad that my own time at Paramount and the momentum we were building was cut short by our shutdown in March, I am so proud of the spirit of humanity that I’ve witnessed day after day from my Paramount family during the joint crises of Covid-19 and the events following the murder of George Floyd. We have loved and supported each other. We’ve marched in protest together. And in many ways, we have grown closer together, rather than suffer in isolation. We are a family, and that is our strength.”
Watts will oversee the studio’s film operations from development to release, including Paramount Pictures and Paramount Players production labels. She’ll also manage creative and development groups and supervising casting, physical production, post production and music. Elizabeth Raposo will continue to serve in her current role as president of production, reporting to Watts.
With the arrival of Watts, Paramount now has exclusively female production heads — including Mireille Soria in animation and Nicole Clemens in TV.
“Emma is one of the most exceptional executives in the film industry. I worked with her for almost two decades during her career at Fox and have watched her become the stellar leader and creative talent she is today,” said Gianopulos. “As Paramount continues its evolution and growth, I am thrilled that she will deftly guide the film studio with her impeccable taste, talent relationships and innovative vision.”
Watts remained at Fox after its acquisition by the Walt Disney Company in 2019. However, she grew dissatisfied by the role she was given in the new company, as Fox’s projects struggled to gain attention from its corporate parents (a situation that was exacerbated after Fox releases such as “Dark Phoenix” and “Stuber” stumbled shortly after the merger was completed). Watts is viewed as a talented executive with strong creative instincts and an ability to work with top filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. There had been rumors that she was being eyed for a gig at Apple, helping the tech giant strengthen its ties to Hollywood.
Watts’ hire marks is another indication that Gianopulos is eager to surround himself with executives with whom he has developed strong working relationships. Since taking over at Paramount in 2017, Gianopulos has hired several former Fox team members, including distribution chief Chris Aronson and global communications head Chris Petrikin. He also had discussions with former Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler about joining the studio, but she opted instead to form a multiplatform production deal with Sony and HarperCollins.