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Brian Grazer: Aligning the Stars

The man behind a long list of iconic film and TV projects joined “Out of Office” to take stock of what he’s learned in Hollywood — and what he still hopes to learn.

If you need two hands (and every single finger between them) to count all the Oscars won by the films your production company has produced, you might be Brian Grazer.

Yes, he can boast exactly 10 Academy Awards, not to mention 47 Emmys and 10 Golden Globes.

The co-founder of Imagine Entertainment and the man behind a long, long list of successful projects with Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, and beyond hasn’t done a little bit of everything in Hollywood; he’s done a lot. And on the latest episode of Boardroom’s “Out of Office” podcast, he discussed the road that brought him here — did you know he started out as a law clerk? — and what he still dreams about doing even today despite all he’s accomplished.

Click here to listen to the full episode.

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“Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is not only was it really funny and became a hit in that day, but it was like a shock comedy,” Grazer said. “It broke every single rule of ethics and morals. It said words and things that I can’t say on the show.”

Grazer thought that the 1974 classic was a different kind of untamed comedy that he understood.

“It’s not contained, it’s shocking,” he said. “And you can break all the rules as long as you, I think, do it with love.”

The second film was The Battle of Algiers, which Grazer described as a successful and effective art film from 1966.

“It’s a camera that’s following people around, following the antagonist around, and is living through this antagonist’s perspective all the time,” Grazer said. “It was the first really effective use of steady cam. And what that enabled me to imagine was that everything is possible. You can actually inhabit a person’s being and certainly their psyche and the way they’re perceiving and interacting with the world, and therefore, you as an audience can be them even more.” 

Someone who the audience could always, and still can, identify with? The legendary Tom Hanks. Grazer’s 1984 romantic comedy Splash was directed by Howard and was Hanks’ first movie role. He knew right away that he would be a star.

“I knew he had something that other people didn’t have,” Grazer said. “He could be funny, and you could live through his heart at the same time, whereas a lot of actor-comedians can be really funny but they were usually so eccentric that they were the sidekick or the buddy.”

While Hanks’ late co-star John Candy is Grazer’s perfect portrait of a “No. 2 guy,” Hanks had something special that Grazer considers a modern evolution of the great Jack Lemmon’s work in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

“Tom occupies a very special space,” Grazer said, “and Tom had this special and still has this special trait that he can have a personality and be entertaining but also you feel for him all the time.”

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