BASIL IWANYK: Hollywood’s Most Bankable Producer Can See The Future In The Past


There’s a good chance that last year you saw “The Town,” “The Expendables” or “Clash of the Titans.”

There’s also a good chance you saw all three of them, feeding into their respective box office grosses of $160 million, $224 million and $494 million.

Basil Iwanyk is the man behind those movies.

And he’s being hailed as one of Hollywood’s future megaproducers — a qualification Iwanyk finds a little ironic, since he’s scrupulously throwback.

“I’m really retro,” he told Business Insider from the offices of Thunder Road Pictures, Iwanyk’s production company. “All these people come up with mathematical equations to predict if a film will succeed. I just go with my gut.”

Conquering demos is an equally straightforward task. “I constantly access, in my head, the movies I got excited for, the ones that made me go to the theatre on Friday night and go back two and three times,” Iwanyk said. “What did I want to see when I was fifteen? 20-five? What do I want to see now?”

It’s an almost unnervingly direct method of filmmaking — and it’s one that’s working so far, though Iwanyk believes it will serve him well even when it doesn’t.

“Movies take up so much time and effort,” Iwanyk said. “They take you away from your life. If a banker blows a transaction, not everyone knows they fucked up.”

“But when a movie fails, it’s the most humiliating experience. You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I want to be associated with this even if it doesn’t succeed?'”

The question is one he takes seriously — especially because for Iwanyk, every bet is a big one. He is not a go-to guy for shoestring-budget, quirky indie comedies.

He is, rather, a master of the colossal, commercial concept. Just listen to these loglines.

For “The 28th Amendment”: The President of the United States discovers a secret cabal that runs the government and wants him dead. (Denzel Washington will star.)

For “Firestorm”: An everyday high school senior is placed at the centre of the effort to keep the earth from dying out.

For “The Brotherhood of the Rose”: Two orphans who have been raised by a CIA operative find themselves targeted for assassination.

He loves “male-driven cop thrillers” but, in a broader sense, is always keeping an eye on gaps in the movie market.

He sees a lot of them right now, and wonders what’s happened to “movies like ‘Jerry Maguire,’ that are romantic and human and funny but still feel studio and glitzy; classics like ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘E.T.’ that didn’t have a clear genre but that were magical and emotional; and movie-star thrillers like ‘Fugitive,’ ‘Ransom.'”

A few years ago, he noticed another gap. “It sounds goofy, but my wife and I just felt like we hadn’t seen a great romance in a while,” Iwanyk said.

And so Iwanyk signed on to produce a remake of “A Star Is Born.”  Clint Eastwood is directing, and Beyonce Knowles will star.

Neither that nor any of Iwanyk’s movies are coming out in 2011 — much to the relief of his competitors.

He’s weeks from starting shooting on the “Titans” sequel and is in pre-production on “The Seventh Son,” an exorcism thriller starring Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and Sam Claflin.

After that, he’ll start work on “Star” — his first chance to work with material that’s as old-school as he is. And he’s not at all daunted by the prospect of taking a crack at a film that’s been done already.

That’s because he knows that in reality, everything has.

“People in my industry can have tunnel vision and arrogance and think that what we’re doing, no one has ever done before,” Iwanyk said. “If you look back 70 or 80 years, you see the rhythms. It’s as much about what came before as what’s coming next.”