Imagine Entertainment marked a trio of significant releases this weekend, helping to spell out Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s refreshed vision for their content shop after amassing development projects and biding their time through the pandemic.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut “Tick, Tick … Boom!” saw a limited theatrical release via distributor Netflix, after dazzling the 2021 AFI Fest a week prior with Andrew Garfield’s leading performance as late “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson.
Additionally, the acclaimed “Julia” from documentarians Julie Cohen and Betsy West hit theaters via Sony Pictures Classics, chronicling the life of Julia Child. As did “Paper & Glue” from MSNBC Films, about the ambitious and inclusive artist JR.
Grazer caught up with Variety to discuss the emotional through-line of the releases and what’s up next at Imagine.
Imagine 2.0 has been brewing for a while, especially on the unscripted side. What’s the mission there?
Brian Grazer: The strategy is to have more divisions, more depth, and eventually have IP that can have even greater commercial value — whether that’s eCommerce events or, like some of my previous movies and TV shows I’ve done, to produce multiple life cycles. Take “Friday Night Lights,” and, of course, “24.”
More than that, it’s to make films, TV, docs, and kids and family content that inspire people and send good vibes into the world. It’s a perfect counterpoint to what we’re experiencing at this moment. We’re so polarized in so many ways and dealing with a lot of things as a planet that emanate negativity. We at Imagine try to make content that compensates for that.
How do this weekend’s movies fit into that strategy?
These movies are all very different, but achieve that. “Tick Tick” is so buoyant and inspirational and aspirational. When I mentioned “Friday Night Lights,” that was all about identity. So many things we do are about identity and respect, how you gain it and how you lose it. That is really central to what “Tick Tick … Boom!” is about. Jonathan Larson wonders if he’ll ever be anything — thats what we all feel, and if so, will it have meaning or purpose?
“Julia” is similarly about having this one-in-a-million chance to become the person she would be — even with her offbeat nature — this spokesperson for food and that shared experience. She was so persistent and so excellent at what she did. You get to see this person become seismically successful and the progenitor of all these food shows and food interests. Anthony Bourdain and all the shows we now know might not have had the same life without Julia.
And then “Paper & Glue” is just amazing to me. JR is a French artist and photographer that started off working on these huge buildings in France, but then went much further — something that has such a profound social consciousness. We applaud not only the art he’s able to create, these giant murals, but what he’s painting has so much meaning and it ignites the social consciousness in all of us. It makes us want to do better and be more humane. To see human beings as equals as opposed to the other.
All of these projects axis on love — food, music, art. They’re about how human beings interrelate to each other in a passionate way.
What’s coming next that excites you?
I love doing “Genius” We just finished “Aretha,” and we’re going to do — I don’t know if we announced it, but it involves two great people from the civil rights movement. I’m also really excited about doing this book that I bought to adapt as 10-part limited docuseries. That’s about the New England Patriots and their place in the world of the NFL — how they started as the worst team and became the best team. It’s called “Dynasty.” That team is a focal point for not only how the NFL works, but how a team, with unity, can succeed. It’s the refinement of how a team gets better, and unity over singularity is more important. We’re going to do it with archival footage and it will be very exciting.