Harvey Weinstein took a break from campaigning for this year's slate of Weinstein Company award hopefuls to take part in a Masterclass at the still underway Zurich Film Festival in Switzerland, where his company is screening Ryan Coogler's Sundance sensation "Fruitvale Station," Weinstein's 10th film with Colin Firth "The Railway Man," and the upcoming inspirational drama "One Chance."
In a candid and lively 45-minute conversation, Weinstein dished on how he got into the business, this year's awards competition and much, much more. Below are the highlights from the freewheeling convo.
How he got into film.
Weinstein recounted how he got into film through books. "The real thing that inspired me to make movies was an eye injury I had a kid," he revealed. "I couldn't go to school because I looked liked Quasimodo from 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' A woman who was next to me was a librarian and she got me reading from a very young age. Television was not like it is today. Instead I went into the world of books. Going back to school I had read most of the Russians, understood Tolstoy, didn't understand Dostoyevsky (I still don't). But reading Checkov, similar things, fired up my imagination about telling stories."
He will direct a feature one day.
"I will make that movie, sooner rather than later," Weinstein said of his long-gestating directorial effort "Mila 18," an adaptation of Leon Uris' WWII novel. "The script is finished. I have so many directors who say they'd produce the movie. Martin Scorsese said he'd do it, but cut three hours and make it a ten-minute short."
He's got a beef to pick with Switzerland.
Weinstein joked that he'd never come to Zurich before now because he had a beef to pick wit the country. "I thought you didn't like me," he said to a lot of laughs. Weinstein said he was bummed when Switzerland didn't properly thank him to helping the country win the 1991 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for "Journey of Hope," despite it pulling off the remarkable feat of beating France's entry, "Cyrano de Bergerac." "Everybody expected ‘Cyrano' to win," he said. "The Swiss government didn't say they'd give me a Swiss army knife or watch," he joked. "When ‘My Left Foot' won in Ireland, we closed every pub in Dublin."
He says he delayed "Grace of Monaco" because it just wasn't ready.
When asked from an audience member why "Grace of Monaco" was pushed back to 2014, taking it out of this year's awards race, Weinstein simply said the film wasn't ready and, as a result, didn't get any festival traction. "It's hard to get into an Oscar race without at least some festival exposure," he said. "It's going to be a tough race this year. If you're not ready, don't get into it."
There is no greater filmmaker alive than Quentin Tarantino.
"Quentin is a genius," Weinstein said of the filmmaker. "There is no greater filmmaker in my opinion than Quentin. I love him like a little brother. It's the best relationship I've ever had in the movie industry."