The answer is Bob and Harvey Weinstein. In recent seasons, the movie moguls, who headed up the indy film giant Miramax for many years, have gotten increasingly involved in Broadway producing. Through their Weinstein Company, they have had a hand in nine productions during the 2008-09 season — a big jump from the three shows they helped back in 2007-08, and the one they produced the season before. Harvey Weinstein, the more public of the two brothers, took some time while in Cannes to answer a few questions about his growing sideline business.
Playbill.com: Your company is connected to nine productions that opened on Broadway during the 2008-09 season. Was that by design or by accident?
Harvey Weinstein: This wasn't by design. It's just really been an extraordinary year for theatre with so many strong live stage musicals and plays. We've been fortunate to be involved with some of the most profitable shows to say nothing of the fact that how each of them is/was a great night out at the theatre. Audiences continue to be spoiled by the tremendous talent both on stage and off. How could I not be a part of that?
Playbill.com: You seem to have noticeably increased your stage producing in the past couple seasons. Why?
HW: We've always been a New York-based company, and Broadway and Off-Broadway is one of the things that makes New York singular. There are great new voices coming out of the theatre, and we see the opportunity to work with them and, at the same time, discover emerging talent. Bob and I are always looking for new and exciting storytellers, and our close proximity to the theatre community allows us to stay current.
Playbill.com: For someone such as you, who has had such enormous success in films, why bother with the comparatively small world of live theatre at all?
HW: I don't really consider at theatre as being "small." Each week shows like 9 to 5, West Side Story, Hair or Billy Elliot play to huge audiences, and over the course of a year that number is in the hundreds of thousands. That's more people than the audience for some of our films that get limited releases. Of course, plays tend to run for shorter stints, but in the case of August: Osage County, we've been up for a year and a half, which is tremendous. We also happen to be involved in the movie adaptation.
Playbill.com: This season, you've produced revivals of classic plays and musicals, as well as new plays and musicals. What sort of theatre projects attract your attention?
HW: In a word: heart. Anything that comes from the heart and speaks to the heart is what I look for. I always respond to passion. We have a diverse slate of projects, and it's not hard to see that they all have quality at the core. And with revivals, I love seeing a whole new generation discover a classic. I took my three daughters to see West Side Story, and they told me that it reminded them of Romeo and Juliet. I first had to laugh, but then got excited that I got to share that experience with them, as West Side Story has always been one of my favorite musicals, and now I hear my girls humming "Maria" around the house. Playbill.com: How involved do you get with the productions you back? Are you an on-hands Broadway producer, or do you let your partnering producers take the lead role?
HW: Bob and I tend to be the sorts of partners who are there when you need us. Being that we have our roots in putting on concerts in Buffalo, we know a thing or two about the live audience and we really enjoy getting into a piece and figuring out how to make it better connect with the audience.
Playbill.com: What theatre productions do you have coming up?
HW: Coming up, we have a whole slate of our own projects, beginning with Finding Neverland. It's a musical version of the movie we made five years ago. Also, we have Chocolat and Shakespeare in Love. We're also producing Cinema Paradiso. We're in negotiation with a number of other shows that I cannot tell you about...yet.