Robert Lantos: Canada’s one true film mogul, and maybe its final

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Robert Lantos: Canada’s one true film mogul, and maybe its final
Robert Lantos: Canada’s one true film mogul, and maybe its final



Movie producer Robert Lantos has been getting ready for the discharge of probably the most anticipated Canadian movie of the 12 months: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and MailRobert Lantos is making me waitSummoned to his three-storey Serendipity Level Movies workplace in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood, I’m politely deposited in a nook of the white-stone foyer, dealing with a gold-coloured Elektra cappuccino machine that’s bigger than my fridge. I’m stationed right here no fewer than quarter-hour, simply lengthy sufficient to wonder if the delay is an old-school energy transfer, a rigorously calculated ploy to get journalists to admire the finer particulars of the constructing, or not one of the above – possibly Canada’s solely true (and maybe final) film mogul is only a busy man.But when that is certainly a scene-setting trick, it really works: I’m given ample time to be aware of the gleaming lobby, the winding staircase, the entryway lined with Gemini Awards, Golden Globe plaques, autographed posters (Barney’s Model, Johnny Mnemonic), and the 1991 Genie Award for “Excellent Contributions to the Enterprise of Filmmaking in Canada” – an Air Canada-sponsored honour that Lantos accepted with a speech lambasting the airline for taking part in “imported sequels and unreleased turkeys” as an alternative of Canadian movies.That is the Robert Lantos I anticipated to face over lunch: cigar-chomping chief of an empire throughout his days atop Alliance Communications, blustery unbiased power since establishing Serendipity Level Movies in 1998. However as we speak, the 73-year-old is in a dialled-down temper. As soon as inside his third-floor workplace – which incorporates an expansive balcony overlooking downtown, pictures of well-known family and friends, and artwork given to him by the late Globe and Mail movie critic Jay Scott – the producer presents as reflective, laid-back, alarmingly chill.Then once more, this might be one other signature Lantos media-smoothing transfer. Undergo the archives and browse each Globe journalist’s encounter with the person on Worth Avenue (sure, that basically is the workplace’s tackle), and also you’ll discover a sample: anticipating concern and intimidation, we encounter heat mellowness.One other factor that has remained fixed in Lantos Land: lamentations that the movie business ain’t what’s was. In 2000: “The centre is owned and dominated by the Hollywood studios.” In 2016: “I don’t need this to be a pessimistic [article], however movie means a lot lower than it did.” And on this present day in late April – which occurs to be the primary non-virtual Nationwide Canadian Movie Day in three years, in addition to the morning after Netflix’s inventory nose-dived after shedding 200,000 subscribers – issues actually ain’t what they was.Léa Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart in Crimes of the Future.Picture Credit score: Nikos Nikolopoulos/Serendipity Level FilmsWhich is difficult while you’re Lantos, who’s getting ready for the discharge of probably the most anticipated Canadian movie of the 12 months: David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, which is able to make its world premiere at subsequent week’s Cannes Movie Competition. Whereas the fest is a coup – Crimes is the one Canadian title there this 12 months – it’s previous hat for Lantos, who now has 10 Cannes-certified movies to his title, together with the back-to-back punch of Cronenberg’s Crash (1996′s Particular Jury Prize) and Atom Egoyan’s The Candy Hereafter (1997′s Grand Jury Prize). On the time, these movies appeared like dangerous sufficient bets. In as we speak’s pandemic-wracked movie world, Robert Lantos productions really feel like high-stakes gonzo gambles.“Some nice movies will nonetheless get made, however they are going to be made in opposition to all odds, as a result of the world is dominated by the streamers and what stays of the film studios, that are basically nothing aside from superhero factories. Neither of them produce what I otherwise you name cinema,” Lantos says whereas choosing at his salade niçoise. “In the event that they do make these sorts of films, it’s an afterthought. It’s to date down the precedence listing. So, what’s left?”The Candy Hereafter stars Ian Holm and Sarah Polley, written and directed by Atom Egoyan.Alliance Communication through CCNThis is the query that Lantos faces with Crimes of the Future, a modestly budgeted sci-fi thriller that options high-wattage stars with worldwide enchantment (Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux) however no mental property or franchise potential. It does, although, boast loads of Cronenbergian body-horror freak-out enchantment, with dialogue (“surgical procedure is the brand new intercourse”) that blood-gurgles, “excessive specialty viewers.”“To drag all of it collectively in as we speak’s atmosphere was one of many hardest issues I’ve needed to do,” Lantos says, including that he prevented going to Netflix and its ilk for financing as a result of “the streamers have deserted theatrical exhibition, and I’m not prepared to try this. I’m not saying that I by no means will, however not now. So, I cobbled this collectively the old school approach: piece by piece.”Or, as Lantos places it later, he “ran world wide with my hat in hand. That’s the definition of an unbiased producer. It’s a sublime phrase for a beggar.”For Crimes, that begging concerned going to distributors in Germany, France, Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland and america (the place the movie is being dealt with by savvy upstart Neon, of Parasite fame). There are additionally fairness investments, tax credit and a brand new subsidy system for productions capturing in Greece, which, in keeping with Lantos, “made all of the distinction.”“I consider we had been juggling 19 totally different financing entities on this movie, and all have their very own factors of view and agendas, and that impacts everyone else, and it may possibly actually drive you loopy,” Cronenberg says in a separate interview. “However Robert is an excellent filter.”Crimes of the Future is Lantos’s fourth collaboration with director Cronenberg.Picture Credit score: Nikos Nikolopoulos/Serendipity Level FilmsHe needs to be, provided that Crimes of the Future is Lantos’s fourth collaboration with Cronenberg – and one which the producer needed to gently nudge alongside for twenty years, finally prodding the filmmaker to revisit the script (initially titled Painkillers) three years in the past after letting it sit on a shelf.“Robert phoned and mentioned, ‘You haven’t made a film in years. It is best to learn Painkillers once more,’” recollects Cronenberg, who mused about retiring in 2019. “Nevertheless it has a sci-fi element, which I assumed meant that it could be outmoded by now. He mentioned, ‘No, it’s extra related than ever!’ Okay, I believed that was a very good line. And he was proper.”In Canada, Crimes will probably be distributed theatrically by Sphere Movies, taking part in in cinemas “for nonetheless lengthy there’s an viewers,” says Lantos. The movie will open the identical day in about 500 U.S. theatres – a giant summer-movie counter-programming wager for Neon, which is so excessive on Crimes that it flew Cronenberg and Lantos to Las Vegas for the annual theatre-owners convention CinemaCon. (The movie’s delightfully gross footage perplexed a number of the early-morning attendees, who’re extra used to salivating over superheroes and Minions.) However after three weeks in U.S. cinemas, Neon will ship Crimes to premium video on demand.“Neon assures me that that is the proper approach to do that, as a result of the theatrical launch will in flip fireplace up need to see the movie,” Lantos says. “I’m used to theatrical, however I’ll see the way it works.”What doesn’t work for Lantos, at the very least not but, are the monetary situations that include working with streamers like Netflix.“I couldn’t as we speak construct an organization like Alliance as a result of streamers personal the title lock, inventory and barrel,” he says. “You may make a good dwelling your self, however an organization with 500 workers? You want a content material library to help that. Streamers need to personal the movie eternally, not for 10 years and the rights revert.”Don’t cry too rapidly for Lantos: He made $60-million when he offered Alliance to rival Atlantis Communications, which is how he affords his Worth Avenue digs. And even again in Alliance’s heyday, the corporate made most of its cash in broadcasting, tv manufacturing and movie distribution, not movie manufacturing. “Being an unbiased producer,” Lantos says whereas overlooking town, “doesn’t result in this.”James Spader and Deborah Unger seem in a scene from Cronenberg’s movie Crash.Handout through The Canadian PressIndeed, Serendipity Level has skilled as many ups because it has downs, with crucial hits (Barney’s Model, Being Julia), movies that received over each the media and the field workplace (Japanese Guarantees), and titles that did neither (The place the Reality Lies, By way of Black Spruce, Bear in mind). And in between, there have been the eagerness tasks that spoke to Lantos’s household historical past – the Holocaust-backdropped dramas Sunshine and The Music of Names – that made the business sport one price taking part in, in any respect prices.But when Lantos needs to maintain making movies – motion pictures that he believes Canadian artists have to be afforded the chance to inform, and films that he believes Canadian audiences need to see – it’s not simply streaming that he should cope with. The home help methods that Lantos has turn out to be a grasp at navigating have modified, too.In 2000, Telefilm Canada suspended its “Quick Observe” system, an computerized funding program that allotted $20-million to $25-million a 12 months, or roughly 30 per cent of Telefilm’s annual manufacturing funds, to producers with favoured observe data. On the time, Lantos and fellow producers Denise Robert, Niv Fichman, David Gross and Patrick Roy advised the Nationwide Publish that such a transfer would threaten business predictability and place an excessive amount of accountability within the arms of civil servants.At this time, all Lantos says about Telefilm is that the Crown company’s funding in Crimes of the Future was 14 per cent of the movie’s funds, “which was very useful.” (Telefilm says it supported the venture with $200,000 underneath its 2019-20 improvement program, and $3.5-million underneath its 2020-21 manufacturing program; figures had been unavailable for its advertising program as “nothing has been signed.”)Over a dessert of combined berries, the dialog turns to Invoice C-11 (“Lastly, it seems to be like there will probably be regulation, however that by itself shouldn’t be sufficient – it’s the way you interpret it”); whether or not his CRTC-quashed concept to start out a Canadian film cable TV channel referred to as Starlight again in 2013 would work as we speak as a streamer (brief reply: possibly, however it wouldn’t be him operating it); and the nation’s movie distribution scene virtually a decade after Alliance Movies was acquired by Leisure One, which itself was acquired by Hasbro in 2019 (“There are only a few distributors who’re really advertising their motion pictures versus pushing a button and placing them on their platforms”).What will get Lantos animated – in that heavy-duty mogul approach – is his improvement slate, a extremely various lineup that features his most bold venture ever: Rise of the Raven, a 10-hour sequence in regards to the 1456 Battle of Belgrade. Specializing in warrior Janos Hunyadi, a nationwide hero in Hungary, the place Lantos was born, the present may be the producer’s personal Sport of Thrones. Lantos’s son, Ari, has been in Budapest for a 12 months engaged on pre-production, with capturing set to start (“in idea”) this July.“We’ve got 250 talking components. We purchased 100 horses that we’ve been coaching for six months. However so many issues can go mistaken while you’re constructing the fifteenth century,” Lantos says. “It’s by far the costliest manufacturing of my life. If I’d identified all of this as we speak, I’m unsure I’d’ve executed it.”However as was the case so many different instances, Lantos couldn’t cease himself.“It’s like an dependancy,” he says. “How do you name it quits?”Join The Globe’s arts and way of life newsletters for extra information, columns and recommendation in your inbox.



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