The Hollywood dream brings would-be movie stars to L.A. every week, but it also brings a curious collection of rich rubes, earnest impresarios and cold-eyes hustlers. Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz, who cover the film industry for the Los Angeles Times, have a revealing look at two neophyte Hollywood players– Derek Anderson (shown in photo below, second from left) and Victor Kubicek (on the far right, next to diretcor McG) — who scored a major stake in the “Terminator” franchise and may be a combination of all of those types.
Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek were having lunch at the Italian cafe Il Piccolino in West Hollywood in the fall of 2006 when they were served up an irresistible dish that wasn’t on the menu.
The two men were presented with the chance to buy one of the best-known franchises in American cinema, the “Terminator” series, even though their entire producing experience consisted of one low-budget comedy that never made it into theaters.
The Hollywood neophytes were informed of the prospect by dining partner Peter Graves, a veteran movie marketer. “It was shocking,” Anderson recalled. “We were in disbelief.”
Anderson and Kubicek swooped in and quietly seized the rights, going on to produce one of this summer’s most anticipated event films, “Terminator Salvation,” which opened over the weekend to a relatively weak $53.8 million. The movie, starring Christian Bale of the “Batman” films, has revived the series and catapulted Anderson and Kubicek into the Hollywood mainstream. But they’ve also encountered controversy along the way. The pair have been enmeshed in several lawsuits — since settled — and other disputes involving investors, business associates and a major studio.
“Terminator” now stands alongside George Lucas’ “Star Wars“ as one of the few major movie brands to be independently owned and produced outside the studio system. This comes in an age when media conglomerates build their businesses around huge properties that they turn into films, toys, video games and more.
“It’s remarkable that nobody in the business realized that the rights to one of the most iconic brands of all time were available,” said Erwin Stoff, a principal of the management/production firm 3 Arts Entertainment.
Though distributors Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures put up most of the film’s $200-million production budget, Anderson and Kubicek, who risked little of their own money, stand to rake in half of any profits that might come from box-office, DVD and television sales as well as all the proceeds from a new video game and other consumer products. In addition, the two control the sequel rights.
“It was a huge coup for them,” observed Sony Pictures Vice Chairwoman Amy Pascal. “I wish we owned the rights and controlled every franchise — that’s the business we’re in.”
Leapfrogging from nowhere into the Hollywood stratosphere took savvy, the right connections and, more than anything, luck. “At the end of the day, it’s a pretty significant thing,” Anderson said. “I feel like we’ve been so blessed.”
Questioned about the legal issues that trail them, both men declined to address specifics, but Anderson said, “In all our business dealings, we always try to honor our word in any agreement we have. I have to look at myself in the mirror every day.”
— Geoff Boucher
RECENT AND RELATED
CREDITS: Red carpet photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images shows Jeffrey Silver, Derek Anderson, McG and Victor Kubicek at “Termaintor Salvation” premiere. McG portrait by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.