Known for working with some of the film industry’s best, including Spike Jonze, Alejandro González Iñárritu and David Lynch, Steve Golin has made a name for himself through his work with Anonymous Content, a production management firm that claims “The Knick,” “Winter’s Bone” and “The End of the Tour” among its long list of achievements.
After a year of producing some of TV’s best shows like HBO’s Emmy-winning “True Detective” and USA’s wildly popular “Mr. Robot,” Golin has transitioned his focus back into film with Tom McCarthy’s stunning awards contender “Spotlight.”
After over 30 years in the industry, Golin’s independent sensibilities and affinity for director-driven projects continues to cement him as one of the most prolific and creatively-minded producers working today.
Stopping by the Middleburg Film Festival in the midst of the madness of the “Spotlight” press tour, Golin sat down with famed film critic Janet Maslin to talk who almost directed “True Detective,” “The Revenant” and that time Nicolas Cage got really drunk at Cannes.
On Making “Spotlight” in an Industry that Runs on Superheroes
On Which Big-Time Director Almost Helmed “True Detective”
On the Star Who Was “Being John Malkovich’s” Surprising Dissenter
On Developing Fincher, Jonze and More in Music Videos
Though Golin is now heavily involved in film and television, he got his start in music videos. “In 1986, we started our own company, Golin explained. “Propaganda Films, which was me, Nigel Dick, Greg Gold, Dominic Sena and David Fincher. None of them had done any movies and they were all aspiring filmmakers. So we started this company to make our own movies.”
“I like music as much as the next person, but that was not what we wanted to do. We liked music videos because there was a lot experimental filmmaking going on, it was such a small industry at the time. There were no rules. So we really had a lot of fun. We were in the right place at the right time and were able to sort of become quite successful in the 80s and early 90s. Propaganda was by far the dominant company for music videos.”
Credited with discovering names like Antoine Fuqua, Spike Jonze, Gore Verbinski and Michael Bay in the music video field, Golin pointed out that the music video industry was one of the most fertile eras for developing talent.
“We knew Fincher, even in 1986, that he was going to be a big director. He knew, too, and he would tell you,” he laughed. “People wanted to work with us because we had the directors. In those days, music videos were essentially TV commercials for records. And unfortunately, things like this don’t exist like they did then. We did some very expensive videos back in the day. Michael Jackson’s ‘Scream’ was like $9 million. We were basically trying to have fun and make money.”
On Working With David Lynch and His Big Film Break
Golin’s first big opportunity came after the start of Propaganda in 1990, when he produced David Lynch’s wonderfully weird “Wild at Heart.”
“We went to Cannes with it. And the night of the awards, I got the call asking if I was going to the awards ceremony and I was like, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I heard David [Lynch] over the line, ‘Steve, we just won the Palme d’Or.’ So we had to race back and get in our tuxedos, and Nicolas Cage got so drunk he got up on a table and did his Elvis Presley impression. He was just smashed,” he laughed.
Why “The Revenant” is Golin’s Tentpole Movie
Not a filmmaker generally associated with larger-scale productions, Golin’s upcoming collaboration with Iñárritu is one of the most anticipated films of the year. “It’s a much bigger budget movie,” he said. “It’s got DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in it. It’s got a lot of action in it, it’s got revenge themes, so it’s a bit more commercial. We hope that it will be more profitable. But I have no interest in making comic book movies. I think on the tentpole side, ‘The Revenant’ is the first tentpole movie we’ve ever made because it cost so much money.”
“Producing is really a labor of love, he explained. “The way we do it you really don’t make that much money. So I think now it really has to be something that you like, because ultimately you’ll have to wake up to the same story for five or ten years.”
“The Revenant” hits theaters December 25. “Spotlight” is now playing in select theaters.