With over 100 producing credits and two of Hollywood’s most important companies to his name, Harvey Weinstein is at the epicenter of the industry. At Sundance, he sat down with Indiewire’s Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris at the Chase Sapphire on Main lounge to discuss the entertainment landscape from his unique vantage point.
1. "Nobody’s done more for indie film than Bob Redford."
Weinstein couldn’t sing higher praises to Robert Redford, who co-founded Sundance in 1978 with proceeds from his successful acting career. "When I first came to Sundance, it was in a covered wagon," said Weinstein. "It was the wilderness. Nobody’s done more for independent film than Bob Redford. Building Sundance as a platform for so many of you to make films and be able to get good prices for them — to get them showcased and exhibited — is this one man’s dream, one man’s vision. Sundance has had a remarkable effect because it gives a platform to these movies that you can build upon all the way to the Oscars."
2. "Dead authors make fantastic sources of movies."
"Even at the age of 100, I’m still watching old movies," joked Weinstein. "I’ll repeat movies I saw and didn’t like and say, why didn’t I like that?" Weinstein also emphasized the importance of studying literature as a foundation for a career in cinema. "Dead authors make fantastic sources of movies," he said.
3. He defended "American Sniper."
Weinstein maintained a strong stance in favor of Clint Eastwood’s polarizing "American Sniper," crediting the idea that "it introduces America to PTSD." He continued: "How about all these pieces of junk our kids are seeing? Let’s go after them instead." When the conversation turned to the bombastic trend in contemporary journalism, Weinstein attributed the negative reception of "Sniper" to misaligned American priorities. "No one was ever saying, ‘There’s a really good story about a human being who hands out money to children, builds houses, works hard. The Jimmy Carter story. You sit in an editorial meeting and [pitch] the Jimmy Carter story and they go, ‘Fucking boring. I don’t give a shit.’ Our priorities are so screwed. When you say, ‘Hey, ‘American Sniper’s got a hole in it,’ they salivate over that stuff. It’s sexy." He had one piece of advice for journalists: "If you’re going to write an article, just do one thing that used to happen all the time: do the research."
4. "Foxcatcher" was one of his favorite films this year.
"’Foxcatcher’ was the American Dream upside down," said Weinstein. "It reminded me of ‘American Beauty,’ but an economic model. It’s so ironic that Bennett [Miller] made ‘Moneyball,’ and then he makes that. Either I took too many drugs when I was a kid or I see the connection between the two films."
5. "You’ll get beat up a lot, but you gotta fight."
When asked what it takes to succeed in the entertainment industry, Weinstein didn’t hesitate with his answer. "Understand that tenacity has to rule the day. You have to hang in that ring. You’ll get beat up a lot, but you gotta fight."
6. "I have nothing but praise for The Academy."
When Weinstein first started at Miramax, he recalls a strict Academy voting culture. "All the studios used to do one thing: Everyone who worked for Columbia voted for the Columbia movie." Now, he says, things are different, and that’s all thanks to the diversification of distribution methods. Today, he backs the Academy’s decisions. "I have nothing but praise for The Academy," he said. "I think it’s filled with people with conscience. I get disappointed too… I mean, Amy Adams not getting nominated for ‘Big Eyes’ broke my heart because she worked so hard and was so good… but then again, Marion Cotillard gets it, and that movie is amazing, but it didn’t get nominated for Best Pic. That’s what makes the game interesting."