Neal Moritz Interview #2

Producer Neal Moritz

Neal Moritz is one of Hollywood’s most successful producers. His films, the 21 Jump Street, series and The Fast and the Furious series, have been box office gold for the past fifteen years. He sits down with Chris Neumer again and talks about the one group who is never wrong, the importance of luck and how his dream job would be making documentaries.

by Chris Neumer

Extra Information

NEAL MORITZ: How are you?

CHRIS NEUMER: Good. Thanks for your time, again.

NEAL MORITZ: No problem, what’s going on?

CHRIS NEUMER: I wanted to hit some specifics that we didn’t get to in our first interview and get some clarifications as well.

NEAL MORITZ: All right.

CHRIS NEUMER: Can you talk about the financial terms of your deal with Sony?

NEAL MORITZ: I don’t want to talk about that.

CHRIS NEUMER: Okay. You’d said that certain decisions on a production were more crucial than others. Which decisions are more crucial?

NEAL MORITZ: I think every decision is crucial. But it starts with whether to move forward with a certain idea or not. To me everything is very idea dependent. So that’s important. Obviously, everything along the line becomes important. But the big decisions are One) are you going to make this a movie or not and two) who are you going to hire as the director and three) who are you going to hire to be in the movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: You had said later on that your opinion of your movies came when you watched them in a theater with an audience. Have you ever felt than an audience has been wrong?

NEAL MORITZ: I don’t think an audience is wrong. I think an audience is–the audience has no reason to like or dislike a movie. They either do or they don’t.

CHRIS NEUMER: Does audience translate to box office too? Or is that a stretch you’re not willing to make?

NEAL MORITZ: No, I think that the audience is ultimately the box office, so I think that’s the case.

CHRIS NEUMER: You’d been talking about the differences between Torque and The Fast and the Furious and you said that The Fast and the Furious had soul. How do you go about instilling soul into a project?

NEAL MORITZ: That’s a combination of luck, experience and hitting the zeitgeist of America at a certain time.

CHRIS NEUMER: This was something else we talked about in reference to September 11 and the patriotic trend. You mentioned You Got Served as a current trend that has come back in vogue. As a producer is there any temptation to tap in trends?

NEAL MORITZ: You obviously would love to tap into a trend, but if you’re trying to tap into a trend, you’re probably not going to. It won’t happen. It has to happen organically.

CHRIS NEUMER: It’s not possible to set a trend yourself.

NEAL MORITZ: I guess. Flashdance did with the way she dressed set a trend. The Fast and the Furious some said set a trend. Not just the term ‘fast and furious’ became a universal term, but a lot of kids got into cars and then even more kids got into cars.

CHRIS NEUMER: So usually, if a trend happens because of a movie, it doesn’t happen because you’re specifically trying to start a trend.

NEAL MORITZ: I think that you can try, I just don’t think that’s something you can plan out. It either happens or doesn’t. I think it’s impossible to predict trends.

Fast & Furious 5CHRIS NEUMER: But ideally, you’d like to have your films create a trend, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

NEAL MORITZ: I’d love to. I think making movies about lifestyles is the easiest way to catch onto a trend just because trends are based on lifestyles and if you can make movies about lifestyles that people aren’t aware of that lifestyle could transfer onto film into something that people want to imitate.

CHRIS NEUMER: Besides The Fast and the Furious are there any films you’ve made that you think have caused trends?

NEAL MORITZ: I think Juice, the movie I did way back with Tupac. It was a movie about DJ-ing and I think a lot of kids got into DJ-ing because of that movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: Okay. You said that one of the craziest stunts you’d ever witnessed was on XXX where the guy jumps the barn as it blew up. Are there any crazy whacked out stunts you want to try in the future?

NEAL MORITZ: I can’t think of one in particular. But in every movie you do that’s an action movie you’d like to have a signature action set piece.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’d asked you about you adapting something by Jane Austen as a completely hyperbolic example and you had said that you could never do it and, what’s more, that you would find it very hard to do. Why would it be so hard to do?

NEAL MORITZ: I just don’t understand that kind of stuff. The closest thing to that that I would do would be Cruel Intentions. It’s our spin on classic literature, contemporize it.

CHRIS NEUMER: What is it that you don’t understand about that?

NEAL MORITZ: It’s not a lifestyle I really understand.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh! I get it. The modern lifestyle you get, the sub-cultures you get, but you don’t get the period piece nature of something like that.

NEAL MORITZ: Uh huh.

CHRIS NEUMER: With this in mind, do you have any desire to produce a movie that will get nominated for a Best Picture Oscar or Golden Globe?

NEAL MORITZ: Obviously if you’re making movies, you want to make movies that are considered great movies. It’s something that I would obviously desire, but it’s not the thing that drives me.

SrgehCHRIS NEUMER: And what drives you is…

NEAL MORITZ: Audience reaction and satisfaction.

CHRIS NEUMER: We had been talking about editing. You said the editing style of the project is on the director. However, you finished this topic off by stating, “when need be, I step in and do what needs to be done.” What is this situation?

NEAL MORITZ: Oh there’s been a number of movies where I felt the movie just needed a little more editing, so I’ll come in to work with the director and the editor to get a little more style or the style I like into the movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: So this isn’t a Kevin Costner/Kevin Reynolds thing you’re talking about.

NEAL MORITZ: No, no, no, no.

CHRIS NEUMER: Can you name any of the films that this has happened on?

NEAL MORITZ: I’d rather not.

CHRIS NEUMER: You had also mentioned how Warner Brothers had come to you to do Superman, you’re not doing it, but is there a difference in your eyes between a studio coming to you or you going to a studio with a project?

NEAL MORITZ: There’s no–it’s just that I’m having conversations all day long with different executives at studios. They’re talking about what they’re doing, I’m talking about what I’m doing and sometimes they’ll bring up something and I’ll say God, that’s be something I’d be interested in, is there a producer involved. It’s just kind of based on friendships and relationships in the business. Talking to people about what’s going on everyday.

CHRIS NEUMER: So it’s a mutual decision for you to come onto a project regardless of whether they bring it up or you do.

NEAL MORITZ: Yeah. It’s their project, I can’t do it unless they want me to do it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, yeah. That was why I asked if it was more flattering if they came to you.

NEAL MORITZ: Of course.

CHRIS NEUMER: You said that Fox took a chance on you doing Volcano. How did you get them to bet on you for that movie?

NEAL MORITZ: I owned a script that they liked and the only way they were going to get to buy that script was with me as the producer. So it was a combination of the relationship I’d been developing with them and the other part of it being that it was a project they wanted.

CHRIS NEUMER: Is there any more to it than that? I know there are a ton of people holding onto scripts demanding they produce and the–

NEAL MORITZ: There’s no more to it than that. If the studio wants something that you have then you control the terms of what the deal is. If you have something that more than one person wants you have more leverage and if you control something that only one person wants, then you have less leverage.

'Ludicrous': offroad racing in Fast & Furious 7.CHRIS NEUMER: I’m sure your previous track record as a producer helped too.

NEAL MORITZ: Yes.

CHRIS NEUMER: You’d said that making movies elsewhere makes you more valuable to your home studio. Why is that the case?

NEAL MORITZ: Oh, it’s just because it makes me more valuable–that one is something I’d rather actually not to talk about it. I just don’t want to talk about it any more.

CHRIS NEUMER: At the very tail end of our interview you said that with the advent of DVD it was finally starting to make financial sense to make movies. Could you shape that a little differently for me? If it didn’t make financial sense to make movies, why were people doing it for so long?

NEAL MORITZ: It was making less and less financial sense to make movies prior to DVD. Costs were going up, revenues were staying the same. With the advent of DVD, there became another ancillary market for revenue. So even though costs were going up, revenue were going up too.

CHRIS NEUMER: So it makes even more financial sense to make movies now.

NEAL MORITZ: Yes.

CHRIS NEUMER: You also said that at some point in time you’d like to make a documentary but you specifically said you couldn’t do that now. Why?

NEAL MORITZ: I don’t have the time.

CHRIS NEUMER: Could you make time?

NEAL MORITZ: I don’t have the time right now.

CHRIS NEUMER: Is there a time frame on this for you? Five years, ten years?

NEAL MORITZ: I guess if something came up that I thought would be a really great documentary then I decided to just do it and forsake whatever things I have, but nothing has struck me thus far so that I was cast aside my day job for my night job.

CHRIS NEUMER: So you’re not pro-actively seeking this out.

NEAL MORITZ: No.

CHRIS NEUMER: If it hits you in the face though…

NEAL MORITZ: Yeah.

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