Born Brian Thomas Grazer, July 12, 1951, in Los Angeles, CA; married Corki Corman (divorced); married Gigi Levangie, 1997 (separated, April, 2006); children: Sage (daughter; from first marriage), Riley (son; from first marriage), Thomas, Patrick (from second marriage). Education: Attended the University of Southern California; studied law, early 1980s.
Addresses: Home—Pacific Palisades, CA. Office—Imagine Films Entertainment Inc., 9465 Wilshire Blvd., 7th Fl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Affiliated with Edgar J. Scherick-Daniel Blatt Co., late 1970s; intern in Warner Brothers' legal department, early 1980s; talent agent and independent film and television producer; co-chief executive with filmmaker Ron Howard, Imagine Films Entertainment Inc. (independent movie and television production company), 1986—. Producer of films, including: Night Shift, 1982; Splash, 1984; Real Genius, 1985; Spies Like Us (co-producer), 1985; Armed and Dangerous (co-producer), 1986; The 'Burbs, 1989; Parenthood, 1989; Cry-Baby (co-producer), 1990; Kindergarten Cop, 1990; The Doors, 1991; Far and Away (with Ron Howard), 1992; For Love or Money, 1993; Apollo 13, 1995; The Nutty Professor, 1996; Liar Liar, 1997; Psycho, 1998; Life, 1999; How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 2000; A Beautiful Mind, 2001; 8 Mile, 2002; The Cat in the Hat, 2003; Friday Night Lights, 2004; Cinderella Man, 2005; The Da Vinci Code, 2006. Executive producer for television series, including: Felicity, 1998; Sports Night, 2000; 24, 2001—; Arrested Development, 2003-06.
Awards: Academy Award for best motion picture of the year (with Ron Howard), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for A Beautiful Mind, 2001.
Brian Grazer is a modern-day Hollywood legend. A film producer and occasional screenwriter whose projects have racked up more than three dozen Academy Awards, he is one of a just a handful of his producer-peers to be honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Grazer has spent much of his career working with director Ron Howard, beginning with their 1984 Tom Hanks mermaid romance, Splash. More than two decades later, the Grazer-Howard-Hanks alliance was still strong, with their 2006 Da Vinci Code one of the top-grossing films of the year. "Basically, our governing belief is that if you do something well, you make money, " Grazer told Jim Carrey in Interview magazine in 2003. "And that's worked for us for 20 years."
Born in 1951, Grazer grew up in the San Fernando Valley area near Los Angeles. His father was a criminal defense attorney, but Grazer claimed he found himself disastrously out of his element when he started classes at the University of Southern California (USC). Taking a job as a short-order cook, he saved up enough money to buy himself a Porsche. "USC was filled with elitists, richies who would go skiing every weekend, " he recalled in an interview with Cal Fussman for Esquire. "So I pretended like I was part of that world—to be accepted. No one knew the Porsche came from cleaning out the fry bin at the end of a shift at Howard Johnson's."
Grazer began his career in the entertainment industry in television. He joined the production company of Edgar J. Scherick, who had a long list of successful credits that ended with the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives two years after his death. Grazer's first two projects at the Scherick office were a made-for-TV movie from 1978, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, and a short-lived NBC series called Zuma Beach with Suzanne Somers. He decided to enroll in law school, and landed an internship with the legal department of Warner Brothers, the movie studio. True to form, Grazer was assigned his own cubicle, but happened upon an empty vice-president's office, and moved into that instead. When he dropped out of law school, he lost the internship.
Grazer spent some of the early 1980s as a script reader and talent agent. He was introduced to Howard, a former child actor best known at the time as the star of the hit ABC sitcom Happy Days, when Howard was just switching gears into directing television movies. Years later, when they spoke with Carrey for the Interview article, Howard recounted that fateful first meeting. "One day I was waiting to go into this executive's office—her name was Deanne Barkley—and Brian walks in, and Deanne says, 'You guys are going to wind up running the business, so you might as well shake hands, '" Howard said. The actor actually remembered Grazer from his own stint at USC, recalling him as the guy with the Porsche.
Grazer and Howard teamed up to make Night Shift, a 1982 comedy that starred Howard's Happy Days co-star, Henry Winkler. Grazer's first screenplay, and the first box-office smash directed by Howard, was 1984's Splash. Though other screenwriters finessed the idea, he was credited with the story idea about a hapless young executive, played by Tom Hanks, who falls in love with a mermaid (Daryl Hannah) who transforms into a human once she reaches land. The inspiration, Grazer said years later, came when he was driving along California's famous Pacific Coast Highway one day in the mid-1970s and feeling dejected about his dating prospects. Stuck in a romantic losing streak, he thought that all the women he knew "had so many prerequisites, " he told Leah Rozen in People. "You had to have all these things, and I got kind of discouraged. So I'm driving along and I think, 'I have to meet somebody real pure, somebody from a whole other world. Like a mermaid.'"
Splash was a major box-office hit the weekend it opened in March of 1984, and Hanks would later credit Grazer and Howard for launching his movie career. Even the name of Hannah's character, who calls herself "Madison" after the famous Manhattan avenue, became one of the most popular choices for baby-girl names over the next few years. The film also relaunched Walt Disney Productions as a major Hollywood player. The once-powerful kids' flicks-and-cartoons studio had fallen into financial disarray by the early 1980s, but its newly formed Touch-stone Pictures scored its first hit with Splash, and went on to make dozens of other top-grossing films over the next 20 years.
As did Grazer and Howard, especially after they formed their own production company, Imagine Films Entertainment, in 1986. Grazer went on to serve as executive producer or producer for a long list of hit movies, some directed by Howard, that included Cry-Baby, Kindergarten Cop, The Doors, Apollo 13, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In 1998, he earned a double set of honors that attested to his fame: he was given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and made a cameo appearance on the animated series The Simpsons.
By the turn of the new century, Grazer was one of Hollywood's most influential executives, and had even gained a reputation for being able to bring some notoriously un-cinematic stories to the big screen. This skill was best exemplified by the 2001 drama A Beautiful Mind, based on the real-life story of John Nash, a brilliant, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician at Princeton University in the 1950s whose career was derailed by schizophrenia. The film version starred Russell Crowe, and won the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as a first for Howard as Best Director. It was Grazer's first Oscar, though he had been nominated for the Splash screenplay and again in the Best Picture category for Apollo 13, the 1995 astronaut drama that starred Hanks and scored a number of Academy Award nominations.
Grazer was also instrumental in bringing the story of rapper Eminem to the big screen in 2002's 8 Mile, though most studios were wary about musical biopics that starred inexperienced actors playing themselves. Grazer's career as a producer has had a few duds, too. A 1993 Michael J. Fox romantic comedy, For Love or Money, was one, and critics were scathing in their reviews of the Dr. Seuss-inspired kids' flick, The Cat in the Hat, in 2003. But Grazer was confident in his abilities to find the right projects and assemble a winning team to make a film audiences would remember, and the occasional miss did not deter him. "The ideal qualities of a producer, " he told Anthony D'Alessandro in Daily Variety, "is someone with an unrelenting vision, someone who is completely impervious, and who doesn't take rejection personally."
Grazer is still involved in television projects. He has served as executive producer for Felicity, Sports Night, 24, and Arrested Development. It was the top-rated Kiefer Sutherland action series, 24, that led him to his next major big-screen blockbuster. After reading Dan Brown's 2003 best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, he inquired about buying the rights, thinking he might use it for a new storyline on 24. He was outbid, but the winner was Sony Pictures, which then hired him and Howard to make the film. This was a notable departure from the way Grazer and Howard's Imagine Entertainment company usually operated, which was to develop their own projects and then shop them around to the studios.
The Da Vinci Code was released in May of 2006, and grossed $29 million in box-office sales on its opening day alone. Directed by Howard, it starred Hanks in the lead role of a sleuth investigating what hinted at a centuries-old conspiracy inside the Roman Catholic church. It was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, but was not without controversy. Officials of the Vatican, the administrative center of the Roman Catholic church, voiced their objections; two authors unsuccessfully sued Brown in a British court for plagiarism; and Grazer and Howard even encountered some pressure from French President Jacques Chirac when they were invited to meet the leader. "We thought it was going to be a five-minute thing, like a trip to the Oval Office—a photo and a handshake, " Grazer told Newsweek's Devin Gordon, but instead they stayed for nearly an hour, and Chirac suggested to them that in return for securing the rights to film inside the Louvre Museum—a key plot point, but one of France's most revered national landmarks—they might think about casting the actor-friend of his daughter in the female lead. The filmmakers, however, had already signed French star Audrey Tautou for the role.
Post- Da Vinci Code projects for Grazer include The Serpent and the Eagle, a historical epic chronicling the Spanish conquest of Mexico; American Gangster, a tale of drug smuggling; and The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. One of Hollywood's more colorful personalities, Grazer favors Eighties-era skinny ties with his suits, owns a palatial home in Pacific Palisades that once belonged to the actor Gregory Peck, and surfs near his two other homes in Malibu and Hawaii. On land, he typically puts enough product in his hair to make it stand straight up, which became his trademark look by the late 1990s. The idea came from his daughter one day, as he told Fussman in Esquire, but once he left the house he was intrigued by the reaction it got. "People either liked it—thought it was courageous—or else they thought, Who … do you think you are? So I left it up like this to quickly discern the truth about people I meet." He has four children from two marriages, and his second wife, Gigi Levangie, is another Tinseltown iconoclast. She has one screenwriting credit, for the 1998 Julia Roberts-Susan Sarandon film Stepmom, which she reportedly based on her own experiences as Grazer's new wife.
Grazer's wife has also written a string of novels that satirize Hollywood, including 2005's The Starter Wife. Its story centers around the wife of studio executive who has been "Cruised, " which is a term that Grazer allegedly coined for a woman whose husband files for divorce just before the ten-year mark that, under California law, grants the wife an equitable share of the couple's property and assets. Grazer used it when referring to the highly publicized divorce between stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman that occurred just before their tenth anniversary. In an odd twist, Grazer filed for separation in April of 2006, after eight years and seven months of marriage to Levangie.
Daily Variety, January 19, 2003, p. 16.
Esquire, January 2006, p. 90.
Interview, December 2001, 84; October 2003, p. 68.
Newsweek, December 26, 2005, p. 94.
People, April 9, 1984, p. 32.
Variety, July 12, 2004, p. 1.
W, February 2004, p. 118.