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Michael De Luca on Wanting to Return to the Oscars and Why He Passed on Paramount

Variety logo Variety 5/9/2017 Gordon Cox
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Despite the mishap that saw this year’s Oscar ceremony end with the temporary announcement of the incorrect best picture winner, Michael De Luca, one of the producers of the 2017 Academy Awards, is looking forward to returning to the gig next year.

“We did the 89th Oscars as an audition for the 90th,” De Luca acknowledged in his keynote conversation that closed out the VarietyEntertainment and Technology Summit Tuesday. “Our sights were really set on that anniversary show,” he said of himself and his producing partner, Jennifer Todd.

He added that he’d love this year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, to return as well. “I don’t think there’s a deal in place with Kimmel, but I think he wants to come back and we would desperately love for him to come back,” De Luca said. “He was an excellent host. Jimmy agreed to be in every segment and came up with incredible bits, and really pulled everybody through the show. We’re looking to repeat that experience.”

In a wide-ranging discussion with Variety‘s Brent Lang that touched on everything from social media to the worst advice he’d ever gotten from a studio, De Luca, the former New Line, Dreamworks, and Sony executive whose work as a producer includes “The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” “Captain Phillips,” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” also talked about his decision not to pursue an executive post at the newly restructured Paramount — and his overall support of the studio and its success.

“I love my producing career so much right now, but I took the meetings with Viacom because I really like the new regime there,” he said. “They seem like really honest, good, smart people who really want the studio to win, and everyone adores Jim Gianopulos. But after my Sony experience, I didn’t think I wanted to walk into a studio situation again unless I could really run my playbook, and at that point the CEO job was Jim’s. I didn’t want to have a boss between me and the parent company. I’m perfectly happy to stay as a producer, unless I could get that kind of opportunity.”

De Luca also discussed navigating the “tentpole-obsessed environment” of the industry when you’re a producer or a creative who works on original projects. “Studios that don’t own a lot of I.P. have to play into originality to keep a full slate going, and they are open to those projects,” he said. “You just need ambassadors. ‘Social Network’ needed David Fincher. ‘Moneyball’ needed Brad Pitt. ‘Captain Philips’ needed Tom Hanks. Those films will still get done, if they’re in the right budget box and they have the right ambassador, and you’re at a studio that believes in those movies and wants to keep those movies on the slate. I think that’s Fox, Universal, and Sony, and I’m including Amazon and Netflix, and we’ll see what happens at the new Paramount.”

He returned to the idea of originality when he offered one possible strategy for the new leadership at Paramount. “You can’t compete with Disney,” he noted. “What you can do is be the place that plays into originality. Be the place that does ‘Get Out’ and lock up Jordan Peele for the foreseeable future, or do ‘Deadpool.’ You can seed the ground with new talent, which is what the studios used to do on a regular basis.”

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