Producer Graham King Exclusive Interview: Talks EDGE OF DARKNESS, DARK SHADOWS, and THE TOURIST

     January 28, 2010

Graham King producer image (1).jpgWhile you may not recognize the name Graham King, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen some of the movies he’s produced like The Departed, The Aviator, Traffic, and Blood Diamond.  Also, with over a dozen projects listed in development on IMDb, he’s clearly positioning himself as a producer to follow.

Anyway, since he produced Edge of Darkness (which opens tomorrow), I recently got to sit down with this busy producer and we discussed not only his latest project, but all the other thinsg he has in development like Dark Shadows, The Tourist, Rum Diaries, Rango, LondonBoulevard , The Town, and Mel Gibson’s Viking movie.  Also, since he has such a great relationship with William Monahan, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, I asked how he manages to keep working with them.  It’s a great interview so hit the jump to check it out:

Since the interview is pretty long, here are some of the highlights on his projects in development:

Dark Shadows

Says they are still working on getting the screenplay right and they are NOT yet scheduled to start filming this year. He made it clear that they “don’t have a script yet.”

Rum Diaries

They test screened the movie last week in San Diego.  He said, “it’s not just a movie for Hunter Thompson fans. It’s not Fear and Loathing. I think this has got a commercial appeal. Johnny’s just terrific in it.”

The Tourist

They start filming at the end of February in Venice and he’s the one that got Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie on the project as he gave the script to Depp.

Here’s our full conversation:

Graham King image (1).jpgCollider: Jumping on in, you’ve been producing a number of movies since 2000, well obviously before that, but you know according to IMDB.

KING: It was actually after that to be honest.

Was it? I’d say emerged in 2000.

KING: Right.

What was it that got you into the game? What made you get into producing?

KING: Well, I love film and I love the film business. And I don’t think there’s any better way, with my personality, than being a producer which is a little bit of a control freak. A little bit of the guy putting all the pieces together. And that’s what I love. I love the jigsaw of it all. You know you start with all these pieces all over the board and you try to put them all together in order. And I love that. And that’s really…I mean people say, “what does a producer do” and unless you’ve got a spare 3 or 4 hours, there’s so many definitions of a producer. How many films do you see have a lot of producer credits?

Well some of those credits are very questionable.

KING: Well, that’s what I’m saying. It’s…I’ve been through it, believe me. Boy, winning the Academy Award was unbelievable but I didn’t thank the guy who’s number one in my speech and I forgot because I didn’t get my speech out, which was Brad Gray, and he didn’t get a credit on Departed and I really wanted him to. I fully…you know kind of a big believer that he should have been there for what he did with that project. But to go back to what you’re saying producing, for me anyway, it’s coming up with material. It’s sitting down with you know the likes of Martin Scorsese, Johnny Depp, Michael Mann and talking about a movie and really creating something from nothing.

What’s your working relationship with Bill Monahan as you guys are doing a few projects together.

KING: Well, I think we have a great chemistry. I trust Bill implicably. And so when Bill says this is a really interesting concept. I’m going to go off and write it, he comes through every time. Every time. And you know it’s just so great to have that relationship with a writer because let’s face it one does spend a lot of time in a development world. And with Bill I don’t call it development, I call it pre-production because I know he’s going to come through. I put a lot of pressure on him saying that but he does and you know, for me I guess to share his vision in filmmaking and to have him go off and direct “London Boulevard” last year you know, I think is really special and if you know, I haven’t seen the film yet but if he comes through and suddenly here I am with this relationship with not just a writer but a great young director then we could do many things together in the future. You know, it’s a business of relationships, right? I mean that’s exactly what Hollywood is to me, and I’m lucky enough to work with the same people over and over again. I’d never met Mel Gibson before I did “Darkness”, before we sat down and had a meeting on this screenplay. And now we’ve finished the film and we’re doing this other film, you know, this Viking movie, which Mel is directing and Bill’s writing and Leo’s starring in. So that’s like my kind of putting everyone together, right?

I read all about it in Variety and it’s interesting though that you’re able to get a lot of these projects going because these are very large talents who obviously have a lot of options. And yet you guys are able to work again and again together. Could you talk about the dynamic of…are you one of these kind of producers that is very hands-off or when do you know when to get hands-on?

Graham King image.jpgKING: No, I’m hands-on. I’m on the set. Obviously if we do movies at once, then it’s hard to be everywhere, but I’m on-set. I was on-set average 85% of the time. I was on-set of “The Departed” every day. “Aviator” every day. “The Tourist” I’m going off to Venice to do “The Tourist” soon. So I’m really…it’s not being a control freak. It’s collaborating. It’s being, you know, you build a family and that’s how I love to make a movie. When we made “Aviator” I never forget, I was Marty, myself, John Logan and Leo-made all the decisions. And we had no studio and there was no one around. It was all done very friendly and it was great and that’s how I like to make a film using that model.  So in getting and sitting with Martin Campbell at the monitor and will Mel talking about the role and talking about his character or scene, it’s the greatest. It’s the greatest for me.

Bill invited me to the set of “London Boulevard” and I think I might have been the only journalist there, or maybe was one of the only allowed…

KING: Oh he just told you that.  Yeah, yeah. Right.

No, I really think I was actually. And I got to see Bill direct and he seemed very enthusiastic and very excited. And to mention what you were saying, there was nobody there looking really over his shoulder. It was very…

KING: Right, yeah. I wasn’t on that set that much because I was in Puerto Rico with Johnny Depp on the “Rum Diaries”, so you have to pick. As I say you spread yourself thin sometimes.  Yeah, you know, Bill got it. I mean, I had so much confidence in Bill and he really came through. We surrounded him, I’m sure you saw, with a great crew. You know the best in the UK I think and you have to do that. And what Bill does great is he’s got a great disposition and he works really well with talent. And they really respected him. They didn’t look at him as a first time director. They looked at him as Bill Monahan, one of the best writers in the business. And a lot of writers go on to be great directors, right?  So it wasn’t a movie I felt I needed to be there, although I’d liked to have been obviously on and off, but Bill just got along…he got on with it. My biggest worry going into that movie is will Bill get out of that habit of living writers hours, which is getting up at 4 in the afternoon and going to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning. I’m like you’re going to have to get up at 6 am buddy. We had like 3 alarm clocks with him and stuff like that. But seriously that was my big issue.

I got the vibe he was doing good. I definitely want to ask you about you have a ton of other projects in development. Something you just mentioned “Rum Diaries”, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this film. I’ve not really seen too much footage….the trailer, poster. Where is the promotional stuff for the movie?

KING: We’re not ready yet so we previewed it in San Diego last week. We did a test screening with a locked picture. So it’s the early stages of post, you know? I mean, it’s late stages of post but just before making the trailer and posters and everything else.

Graham King producer image (2).jpgHow did your preview screening go?

KING: It’s good. It was really good. The audience loved the movie. And it’s an amazing vibe in there and a great atmosphere. I loved it, so I think this is going to be really special. And it’s not just a movie for Hunter Thompson fans. It’s not “Fear and Loathing”. I think this has got a commercial appeal. Johnny’s just terrific in it. I’m sure you’ve seen some photos from it.


KING: And he looks amazing. It’s not Johnny doing all the makeup and everything else.

I know you and Johnny have been talking about “Dark Shadows” for awhile. How is that progressing and what’s the update for fans?

KING: Just working on scripts. I know that Johnny is dying to do it and passionate to do it and I think working on getting the screenplay right. I mentioned to somebody in New York at a junket on “Young Victoria” that I would love to do it in the Fall but who knows, and then suddenly it’s all over the Internet that we’re shooting it in the Fall. That’s not the case. We don’t have a script yet.

It’s amazing how the Internet will take things. I like using direct quotes. But I interviewed Johnny and he explained his love of this character. How he grew up with him like this is a movie he clearly wants to make.

KING: Oh there’s no question.

You know, but with Tim, his schedule always gets so crazy and he’s still working on “Alice”, so…

dark_shadows_barnabas_image__1_.jpgKING: Right, right. Yeah, I mean I think “Alice’ comes out in March so I think if we can get the script right hopefully we can…they’ll do “Dark Shadows” later this year. So we’ll see what happens. Johnny’s doing Tourist for me and then I think he’s doing another movie and then hopefully “Dark Shadows”. It’s all scheduling you know? Obviously Tim and Johnny have such a special bond there, but until everyone feels that the script is in a good place. You know especially Johnny’s very, very aware of the fans of “Dark Shadows”. I actually hadn’t heard of it because we didn’t have “Dark Shadows” in the UK. So when I was growing up I hadn’t seen it. So when he first mentioned it to me I got a bunch of episodes on DVD and watched it and it’s…

Well, when you have one of the bigger movie stars on the planet saying he might want to do something, you know perhaps it can get made.

KING: Right.


KING: Right, right.

Definitely want to touch on “The Tourist”, which is a project that I’ve been following for awhile and it seems like nothing was going right with casting. You’re talking about in/out, in/out with many different things. What was that process like for you and now that you finally have people…?

KING: Well I wasn’t involved. Spyglass had the movie. Gary Barber. And he called me one day and he said if you’re interested in this for you to get involved in it and do it. And I read it and I saw a movie-I saw a great movie. And I watched the original, Anthony Zimmer, the French movie and really liked that. And it was just Angelina when I got it. And there was all this talk on the Internet about Sam Worthington or this one and that one but none of it was real. It was just Angelina really wanted to work…really wanted to play this role and work with Florian, who obviously did “Lives of Others” and has got a lot of talent. And I sat with Johnny and sent Johnny the script and I said I think this will be really a great role for you. And went over to see him and we spoke about it and he read it and he saw the original and he said I love it. And he said it’s really, really special. All of a sudden I’ve got Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in a movie, you know? Which is a really fun feeling, right?

I think that’s one you’ll be on the set of.

Graham King producer image (3).jpgKING: Every day. Right me and 300,000 paparazzi.

Right. I can’t imagine. But that actually has to be a challenge when they’re two of the largest stars on the planet doing a movie together. The challenge of filming anything like that on location has to be there.

KING: Yeah. We’re having a lot of meetings about security and about…you know I don’t like making a film and having the actors in character too much in magazines and on the net and everything else. Because you want to keep something back, you know? I remember we would come out of the trailer of “Aviator” and they’d be pictures of Leo dressed as Howard Hughes in the press, and for me I don’t like that too much. So I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this in Venice, but we’re going to deal with it somehow someway.

Well, when do you start filming actually?

KING: The end of February.

So it’s coming up real close.

KING: Oh yeah. Around the corner.

You may have to institute the “Star Trek” security where they walk through tents to get to things.

KING: Right, right, right. I’m not worried about that so much, I’m more worried about helicopters in the sky and is it going to stop this filming?

I didn’t think about that. And also the paparazzi there are vicious there in Europe.

KING: Europe. England is horrendous. Horrendous.

Well I definitely want to ask…I obviously looked at IMDB about all the projects which are like 1,000 listed with your name.

KING: Really?

There’s a lot. What else do you think, for you, is bubbling up that you think could be going later this year?

KING: Well, the Viking movie I’d love to go. The one that Mel’s going to direct with Leo that Bill Monahan’s writing.

Is he? But is he writing it as we speak or has it been something he’s been working on?

Graham King producer image (5).jpgKING: Oh, no, no. We’ve been having meetings about this, about where to put the story. This isn’t based on one book. It’s based on a lot of research our guys have done to make a Viking movie. And then Bill, myself and Mel and Leo got in a room and kicked around ideas and 6-7 hours we sat around talking about it. And it was great. It’s one of the best meetings I’ve ever had-ever in this business.

Now when you do a meeting like that, do you record it to make sure you don’t forget about things?

KING: No, no. We have people writing stuff down but we don’t record it. You know, when Mel was driving that train…as I say for me it’s just a terrific meeting because we’re all in it to make this movie. So Bill is writing. He’s going through his head. He’s coming up…it doesn’t take Bill long to put stuff on paper. I think he has the formula in his head. And he’s doing that now. While he’s in post on a movie and while he’s writing another script and, you know?

I was going to say.

KING: He’s hot. When you’re hot you’re hot, right?

Yes he definitely is the word hot. Besides the Viking movie, do you have other stuff that you’re thinking about?

KING: I have, as you saw I guess, I have stuff in development that I really like. It’s just a matter of how many can I make at one time and I’ve got a really small company and 4-5 movies in post.


The Town movie image BEN AFFLECK and JEREMY RENNER.jpgKING: I’ve got one starting. I’ve got “The Town” in post that Ben Affleck directed.

That’s another thing on my list to talk about, but you know.

KING: “The Rum Diaries”. “London Boulevard”. The animation movie “Rango” with Gore and Johnny. “Young Victoria” being released because I get involved in all that. And “Edge of Darkness” coming out. That’s 6 movies. So I’m really a one-man band. I have a great support group but I’m really a one-man band.  So how many can I do at once? So I’m going to do “The Tourist” and then, you know this business. You’ve got to get scripts and we’ve got script writing on “Dark Shadows” and the Viking movie and you know everything else and off we go.

When do you think Ben will release a trailer or any sort of stuff from that?

KING: Oh, again he only wrapped a little while ago. I haven’t seen any cut footage of the movie, only dailies. And so I think he’s putting his first assembly together. So it’ll be awhile but I’m excited about that.

Cool. Thank you so much for giving me your time today.

KING: All right, buddy.

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