“The entertainment business is and always has been about money and it's about 'Does that person merit that salary?' The fact is that that the business, in my view, has been somewhat bankrupt for years. Only the new media made it viable.” Mike Medavoy (August 2006)
American executive and film producer Mike Medavoy began his career in the mailroom of Universal Studios before becoming a casting director and then working as one of the biggest talent agents in Hollywood. After becoming vice president in charge of the IFA motion picture department (1971-1974) and senior vice president of United Artists Corp (1974-1978), he co-founded Orion Pictures in 1978 with other former United Artist executives and would enjoy a triumphant 12 year partnership with the company. He left Orion to become chairman of TriStar Pictures in 1990, but due to disputes with the studio's president, he quit in 1994. He has since become chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures, which he co-founded in 1995.
Medavoy has been involved in numerous films, including the Best Picture Academy Award winners “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” (1975), “Rocky” (1976), “Annie Hall” (1977), “Amadeus” (1984), “Platoon” (1986), “Dances With Wolves” (1990) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). He began pursuing a career as a film producer in 2000. His producing credits include “The 6th Day” (2000), “Basic” (2003), “Stealth” (2005), “All the King's Men” (2006), “Miss Potter” (2006), “Pathfinder” (2007), “Zodiac” (2007), “Shanghai” (2010), “Black Swan” (2010) and the recent box office hit “Shutter Island” (2010).
Medavoy was handed a Hollywood Film Award for Producer of the Year at the 2006 Hollywood Film Festival. He was also inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures, to mention a few honors. In 2002, he released a best selling book titled “You’re Only As Good As Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films and 100 For Which I Should Be Shot,” which was published by Simon & Schuster.
Childhood and Family:
Mike Medavoy was born Morris Mike Medavoy on January 21, 1941, in Shanghai, China, to Russian parents Dora and Michael Medavoy. His family moved to Chile from China when he was 7 years old. In 1957 at age 16, Mike immigrated to the United States, where he settled in California and earned his American citizenship five years later. He graduated with a BA in history from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1963.
On July 7, 1995, Mike married actress Irena Ferris. Their son, Nicholas Medavoy, was born on January 21, 1998. Mike and his wife reside in Beverly Hills, California. Mike also has an older son named Brian Medavoy (born in 1966), who co-owns the management company More/Medavoy.
Mike Medavoy began his career with Universal Studios in 1964 where he worked in the mailroom before being promoted to casting director. In 1965, he served as an agent trainee at the General Artist Corporation and then vice president of Creative Management Agency. From 1971 to 1974, he was the vice president and head of the motion picture department at International Famous Agency. During that time, he worked with a number of reputable clients, including Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Donald Sutherland, Terrence Malick, Gene Wilder, Jane Fonda, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jeanne Moreau and participated in the packaging of the Academy Award winners “The Sting” (1973), “Young Frankenstein” (1974) and “Jaws” (1975).
In 1974, Medavoy made the move to motion picture production and joined United Artists Corp, as senior vice president. While there, he was responsible for such releases as the Oscar award winning “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” (1975), “Rocky” (1976) and “Annie Hall” (1977), as well as Sidney Lumet's “Network” (1976), Hall Ashby's “Coming Home” (1978), Francis Ford Coppola's “Apocalypse Now” (1979) and Martin Scorsese's “Raging Bull” (1980).
In 1978, Medavoy co-founded Orion Pictures with four top executives from United Artist, Arthur Krim, Eric Pleskow, William Bernstein and Robert Benjamin, in partnership with Warner Communications. In 1982, with partners Krim, Pleskow and Bernstein, he purchased Filmways, Inc., a distribution company, and established Orion Picture Corporation. During his 12 year stint with Orion, Medavoy was linked to the releases of “The Great Santini” (1980), “Arthur” (1981), “Amadeus” (1984, won the Best Picture Oscar), “Broadway Danny Rose” (1984), “Ran” (1985), “Platoon” (1986, won the Best Picture Oscar), “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), “Hoosiers” (1986), “Throw Momma from the Train” (1987), “Mississippi Burning” (1988), “Married to the Mob” (1988), “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), “Dances With Wolves” (1990, won the Best Picture Oscar) and “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).
Medavoy was appointed chairman of TriStar Pictures in 1990, where he managed development, production, marketing and distribution. While with the studio, he engaged in conflicts with the then-chairman Peter Guber. He also faced box office disappointments with Barry Levinson's “Bugsy” (1991) and Woody Allen's “Husband and Wives” (1992), while the big budget drama “The Fisher King” (1991), helmed by Terry Gilliam, was a critical success but only enjoyed modest financial success. Medavoy, however, managed to produce box office hits with James Cameron's sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), Steven Spielberg's “Hook” (1991), Paul Verhoeven's “Basic Instinct” (1992), Jonathan Demme's “Philadelphia” (1993), which won Tom Hanks his first Academy Award, Nora Ephron's “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) and Edward Zwick's “Legends of the Fall” (1994). His bad relationship with Guber culminated into his withdrawing from the studio in 1994.
In 1995, Medavoy founded the production company Phoenix Pictures, which signed distribution deals with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Currently the company's chairman and CEO, he made his debut with Phoenix by releasing Milos Forman's biographical movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and Barbra Streisand's “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (both 1996). They both received Oscar nominations. The same year, he ventured to television producing with the HBO movie “Soul of the Game,” which he executive produced.
Medavoy's follow up with Phoenix, “U Turn” (1997), a crime movie directed by Oliver Stone that starred Sean Penn, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Powers Boothe, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Nick Nolte, was nominated for Razzies for Worst Director and Worst Supporting Actor (Voight). It was followed by Beeban Kidron's “Swept from the Sea” (1997), Bryan Singer's adaptation of Stephen King's “Apt Pupil” (1998), Terrence Malick's critically acclaimed “The Thin Red Line” (also 1998), Steve Miner's “Lake Placid” (1999) and Andrew Fleming's “Dick” (1999). Through Phoenix, Medavoy also experienced a huge box office success in 1998 with “Urban Legend.” With a budget of $14 million, the film grossed over $38 million in the U.S. and over $34 million internationally. “Urban Legend,” however, earned generally negative reviews from critics. On the small screen, Medavoy executive produced the CBS TV film “Shake, Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story” (1999), which was helmed by Mike Robe and starred Bonnie Somerville and Brad Hawkins.
Phoenix Pictures' subsequent releases in the new millennium include the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle “The 6th Day” (2000), which Medavoy also produced, David Raynr's “Whatever It Takes” (2000), the installment “Urban Legends: Final Cut” (2000), John McTiernan's “Basic” (2003, starred John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), Andrew Davis' “Holes” (2003, starred Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson), John Boorman's “In My Country” (2004, starred Samuel L. Jackson, Juliette Binoche and Brendan Gleeson), Rob Cohen's “Stealth” (2005, starred Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx), Steven Zaillian's “All the King's Men” (2006, starred Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and Mark Ruffalo), Chris Noonan's “Miss Potter” (2006, starred Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor), Marcus Nispel's “Pathfinder” (2007, starred Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood and Russell Means), “Resurrecting the Champ” (2007), David Fincher's “Zodiac” (2007, starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo,) and Ken Kwapis' “License to Wed” (2007, starred Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski). Medavoy also produced or executive produced Martin Campbell's box office thriller “Vertical Limit” (2000), “Resurrecting the Champ” (2007), a film directed by Rod Lurie, the television films “In the Time of the Butterflies” (2001) and “The Outsider” (2002) as well as an episode of “The Chris Isaak Show.”
Recently, in 2010, Medavoy executive produced Anthony Geffen's “The Wildest Dream,” which won the BIFF Award for Best Adventure Film at the 2010 Boulder International Film Festival, He also produced Mikael Håfström's “Shanghai” (2010, starred John Cusack and Gong Li), Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller “Black Swan” (2010, starred Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis) and Martin Scorsese's “Shutter Island” (2010, starred Leonardo DiCaprio). “Shutter Island,” adapted from Dennis Lehane's best selling novel of the same name, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 13, 2010, and opened at No. 1 at the box office.
Medavoy will be producing the upcoming films “The Dictator's Shadow” (2011, scripted by Mikko Alanne), “Dinosaurs Resurrected” (2011) and “Absolutely Anything (2012, directed by Terry Jones and written by Gavin Scott). He has numerous additional projects under development.
Stella Adler Studios: Marlon Brando Award, 2007
Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Film Award, Producer of the Year, 2006
Israel Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001
Cannes Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998