Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: ‘The Double’ to be shown in final screening – Los Angeles Loyolan.
LMU’s School of Film and Television will host the latest entry in the Monday Night Screening series on April 25 at 7:30 p.m. Hyde Park Entertainment CEO Ashok Amritraj will attend the screening to present “The Double,” a new thriller starring Richard Gere. Amritraj acted as a producer on this project and has been involved with over a hundred films during his 30-year career. The Loyolan interviewed Amritraj to discuss screening movies to college students, what kind of projects he prefers to produce and his past as a professional tennis player.
Kevin O’Keeffe: What brought you to LMU for its Monday Night Screening series?
Ashok Amritraj: First of all, I’ve always enjoyed the experience of screening my films for a young audience, specifically for one that is interested in film. It’s always great feedback to get.
KO: Have you spoken on college campuses previously?
AA: Yes, I have, all over the world, actually.
KO: What have your experiences been like?
AA: They’ve been great experiences, and specifically I’ve heard very good things about LMU. I’m looking forward to it being a very interactive evening.
KO: You’ve produced over a hundred films throughout your career – which films stand out as crowning achievements?
AA: You know, as a person, one changes over time, as do one’s likes and dislikes of movies. Speaking personally, as I’ve grown older as well as a person through this journey, different movies stand out as touchstones. Making “Bringing Down the House” and making “Shopgirl,” these were very important movies at those times. To prioritize one movie as most important would be unfair. It’s less about my “favorite” movie and more about what they mean about my career.
KO: What projects appeal to you as a producer – what gives you faith in certain films?
AA: To me, and I’d say this is the best part of my career, I don’t gravitate towards one kind of film over the other. I’ve done drama, action, comedy, festival films, big-budget films … kind of across the board. It’s what makes life really interesting. I think it all starts with the screenplay – here we start on the creative level. If I like it creatively, then we bring in the production and business guys and look at it from that point of view towards greenlighting it.
KO: Tell me about “The Double,” the movie screening at LMU next week.
AA: Again, it started with the screenplay. It is an old-fashioned thriller, a throwback that’s very well-acted and will keep you going with the twists and turns. I think the screenplay works, and we were lucky to get a terrific cast.
KO: I’d like to discuss specifically a couple other projects you’ve been involved with – “Blue Valentine” last year in particular was being developed for 10 years and used a highly improvisational style. Did those factors make you nervous as a producer?
AA: Well, to clarify, we acted as the international distributors on that film, so while I got involved very early on and got it to be made, another company produced it. Derek [Cianfrance] is a wonderful director and he had a phenomenal cast for the film. As a distributor, it can be even more nail biting for you. It’s always tricky when one makes a movie of this kind, because it has to be executed perfectly. It’s always nerve-wracking when these people come together, but it’s always fun.
KO: Your next major project being released is the sequel to “Ghost Rider,” which will be released in 3-D. As a producer, what do you think the influence and scope of 3-D is in today’s world?
AA: I really think it’s here to stay, that it’s going to be around for a while. But I do think that the bar is set quite high – the audience expects very good 3-D. I think this film, this new “Ghost Rider,” will definitely hit that level and be that top-notch.
KO: As a side note, I’m aware that you used to be a tennis pro, having played Wimbledon even.How does being a film producer compare?
AA: [Laughs] Tough comparison! The hard thing about tennis is that it’s all very black and white. One person wins and the other loses. The film business is much more gray, it doesn’t quite work that way. But both areas require intense focus and stamina, so they’re similar in that way.