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OSCAR MOGULS: Amy Pascal Q&A

The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:

Sony Pictures Entertainment
17 Nominations: 8 The Social Network, 1 Salt, 1 Country Strong, 1 Animal Kingdom, 1 Another Year, 1 Barney’s Version, 1 Inside Job, 1 In A Better World, 1 Incendies, 1 The Illusionist

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: How do you think this awards season has been in terms of quality, quantity, excitement?
AMY PASCAL: My own feelings about it are that this is one of the most exciting times we’ve had in the business for a long time. Because all the movies that we tell ourselves we can’t make — ballets, westerns, dramas, everything that are the hardest things to make — those are the movies that are not only winning awards which is fantastic, but also those movies that are commercial. We won’t see a fascinating season like this for a while.

DEADLINE: What do you think of the competition?
PASCAL: I like all the other movies.

DEADLINE: Well, I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh, Kings Speech is a great HBO movie’…
PASCAL: Everybody says that stuff.

DEADLINE: If it comes down to The Social Network vs The Kings Speech, why should people vote for your movie over the other movie?
PASCAL: I don’t want to campaign, you know? That’s not my job to say why people should vote for The Social Network and not something else. I think we have a lot of competition. I think the other movies are really good. There are performances in all the movies that are astonishing. There are virtuosos directing them. But Social Network is a different kind of movie. It breaks different kinds of barriers than those movies were trying to do.

DEADLINE: At what point in this project did you get into the process?
PASCAL: Actually, the way that it happened was we had made 21 which had been a project at MGM, and Elizabeth Cantillon had brought that over when she came to be an executive here. And through the relationship that we had with Dana Brunetti and Kevin Spacey and Ben Mezrich we got an early look at the proposal for the book Ben wanted to write about the origins of Facebook. Scott Rudin was the one who thought Aaron Sorkin should write the screenplay. We all knew Aaron but it was Scott’s relationship with Aaron so he’s the one who contacted him first for sure. We all felt pretty lucky to get Aaron. And Aaron came in with a fantastic take on the material, but at that point Ben hadn’t finished the book.

DEADLINE: Did it occur to you that maybe you should wait and let Ben finish the book?
PASCAL: No, because Aaron and the filmmakers had a very good take on the story they wanted to tell.

DEADLINE: What at that point was your relationship with Scott?
PASCAL: Scott and I had been working together from the 1980s. He was the one who convinced me to be a studio executive for him at Fox. In terms of Sony, when he had his deal at Disney we always kind of had a second look deal with him. But you know Scott has such excellent taste and he makes so many great movies that he and I have always been going back and forth in trying to work together.

DEADLINE: So it’s all coming together and obviously a big concern must have been ‘Oh my
God, we’re writing about this really rich powerful guy. What the hell is going to happen to us?’
PASCAL: Oh, you mean when we were making the movie? Well, here’s what I think the real challenge was. You have to make the main character likeable. They’re allowed to have like one flaw, but they have to be likeable. And what Mark Zuckerberg did to protect the thing that he was building was to do things that he had to do. I never felt he was unlikeable, but definitely Mark Zuckerberg is not your traditional hero. And I think that’s why Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is so wonderful.

DEADLINE: People feel strongest about the Andrew Garfield character, Eduardo Saverin.
PASCAL: Andrew, or Eduardo, is definitely the heart of the story. He’s the emotional character who wants the relationship and is betrayed. But you know what’s so beautiful is when they were making the film, Jesse and Andrew became like best friends. And so they’re so adorable together. You know all of them, Justin Timberlake, Arnie Hammer, they’re like a little gang now.

DEADLINE: People have said to me that if David Fincher doesn’t win best director for The Social Network it’s only because he’s so “unpopular” around Hollywood.
PASCAL: I’ve worked with David a couple of times. We are now on our third movie together. Ever since Panic Room he’s been developing things at our studio and The Social Network was the first thing that came together that we did together. And David is definitely an iconoclast but David expects people to work as hard as he does and he holds people to a standard that he holds himself to. And that’s really the way it works. First of all, I think David has a much bigger heart than people give him credit for. Those of us who know him well know that secret about him. He doesn’t like the marketing process. He doesn’t embrace it. He doesn’t necessarily embrace everything everybody wants him to do. He is very David.

DEADLINE: Someone at Paramount once told me a hilarious anecdote about David and how he refused to bow down to Oprah just to have her publicize his movie Benjamin Buttons. And everybody was saying to him, ‘But this is so important. You don’t understand,’ and he’s like ‘I don’t give a damn about Oprah’.
PASCAL: Right, well I don’t know about that story. But we didn’t have problems like that and David has been a great partner on this movie. And the very difficult thing of course is that as all this awards thing was starting he was already in Sweden shooting The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

DEADLINE: That’s the best thing that could have happened to all of you.
PASCAL: I think it was definitely the best thing that could have happened to him. I think he was very happy to avoid all of the awards campaigning. Here’s the thing about David: he’s very shy. I don’t think he likes getting up in front of people and public speaking.  I think he’s really comfortable on a movie set. I think he is a born director in every sense. And he likes putting forth the people who work with him, not himself. Read More »

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Sony Reups Amy Pascal For 5 More Years

By | Tuesday December 7, 2010 @ 10:35am PST

The press release doesn’t specify length, but I’ve learned that the co-chairman of Sony Pictures has just agreed to extend her employment contract for another 5 years. She has been heading film production since 1996 and at Sony Pictures for more than two decades. Here’s the press release about Amy Pascal (which I’ve shortened):

(December 7, 2010 – Culver City, CA) – Sony Corporation of America has extended Amy Pascal’s employment agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Pascal is Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures, and together with Michael Lynton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, they are responsible for overseeing all lines of business for the studio, including motion pictures (Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems and TriStar Pictures), worldwide television production and distribution, home entertainment, and digital productions (Imageworks and Sony Pictures Animation). So far this year, the studio’s successful slate of films has generated more than $2 billion in worldwide box office revenues. Since 2000, Sony Pictures has had 73 movies open to #1 at the domestic box office, more than any other studio. Last year, Sony Pictures enjoyed its best year ever at the worldwide box office with nearly $3.6 billion in theatrical ticket sales.

“At Sony Pictures, two heads are smarter than one, more distinguished than one, and more dynamic than one,” said Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Sony Corporation. “Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton are synonymous

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