“I Want You To Know That Everyone At The Studio Did Not Want Me To Make It”

Robert Evans, who’s made some great movies and some bad mistakes, did an Ask Me Anything at Reddit. A few exchanges follow.

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Question:

What was it like to be involved with such an iconic film, The Godfather?

Robert Evans:

It was the first mafia movie written, directed, and acted by Italians. Coppola’s hungry brilliance as its director, was cinematically operatic. But nobody wanted to make it. They only offered 6 million to make it and said it would never be a hit. I got the rights for $12,500 and they weren’t even impressed with that. Sometimes you have to go against the tide. Nothing is easy in the business. A lot of layers from distribution, down to set decoration, casting, music. Each one is a battle.

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Question:

I don’t really have any questions, I just wanted to tell you that Chinatown is my all-time favorite film, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything you did to bring that film into existence. Everything about Chinatown is perfect.

Robert Evans:

Thank you very much. I want you to know that everyone at the studio did not want me to make it. It was my first independent movie as the head of production at Paramount, and everyone there thought i was crazy. Nobody understood the script. But i knew Robert [Towne[ was a great screenwriter, i had Jack Nicholson as a lead, and Faye Dunaway, and Roman Polanski. I decided to bet on my artists, not my executives.

Question:

Do you and Roman [Polanski] still talk?

Robert Evans:

Yes we do often. He’s a very close friend of mine. We’ve been through thick and thin together.

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Question:

I’d like to ask what you think is different about the industry today compared to when you started? Specifically in regards to starting in the industry.

Robert Evans:

its much larger, more corporate. The American film has grown to be our countries number one export to the world. It flies the American flag higher all around the globe, more than any other product we manufacture. We should be very proud of it.

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Question:

Has anyone been a bigger prick to you than Frank Sinatra?

Robert Evans:

Frank was great to me – i was a prick to him. And it wasn’t right. But it had to do with the casting of Mia Farrow, and Frank divorced Mia and our friendship over it. It was a friendship i really treasured because he gave me an opening in the business when he took the detective book i optioned as a young producer, and said “I want to make this film”. When it comes to a woman, all rules change. Especially an actress.

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Question:

How many pages does it take to get excited about a screenplay?

Robert Evans:

When its over. A screenplay is re-written, re-written, and re-written. Its a never-ending fight, and very subjective. I’ve made mistakes, and hit the ball out of the park…

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Question:

What do you look for in a script?

Robert Evans:

Lean dialogue. The more the dialogue, the more amateur the writer. A movie is called a moving picture. Its not a play. Theres a big difference to being a screenwriter. One can be a screenwriter and brilliant at it, yet not a book writer, or a stage writer. A triple threat writer is a very rare jewel. And overestimated by his agent.

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Question:

Why has it taken so long to do another Popeye movie and which modern day actor would make a good Popeye?

Robert Evans:

[no answer].•

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