Gary Foster is the producer of The Score, Tin Cup,
Sleepless in Seattle. The son of prolific film producer
David Foster (The Core, The Thing, McCabe & Mrs. Miller),
Gary Foster studied at the University of Southern California's
School of Cinema-Television before making his mark as a producer
on such films as Short Circuit 2, Gloria, and Just
Cause. Darren Rea spoke with him as his latest movie, Daredevil,
was due for release on DVD and video...
Rea: How much of an influence was your father on your choice
Foster: I would say some indirectly and some directly. Obviously,
growing up around it I realised it was an exciting thing.
My parents were very smart and very traditional in the way
they raised me. Even though we had access to things and met
interesting people, we had a relatively normal upbringing,
which I think was a good thing. But when I left college I
was more interested in the sports business than the film business.
I spent a year or so doing that and then suddenly realised
that, as much as I loved sports, the movie business thing
had hit me like the flu and I decided that was what I was
going to do.
dad has always been a great confidant. He's a mentor and if
I could have the kind of career he's had I'd be a happy man.
Did he try to dissuade you from a career in the movie industry?
And did he give you any good advice?
He was very good at being honest about the good and the bad
parts of the industry. This is not an easy business, especially
in the current climate. There was a time when producers were
king, but that's not the case right now. And we have to work
really hard to let people know how valuable our properties
are and what what we bring to the table. In every aspect of
this business people are working hard - we are all free agents
in some way.
father used to use the term "being tastefully aggressive"
and I took it to heart. But, at the end of the day, I am here
because I chose to be here, not because I thought it was something
I was destined to do because of my family connection. But
it was something that I really loved and felt strongly about.
It's always nice to have someone there when you are facing
a situation that you don't know how to deal with - someone
you can trust to give you advice.
Do you think, in your early career, the fact you were your
father's son opened more doors? Or did you find it was more
of a hinder than a help?
His position was very clear. If I wanted him to make a phone
call to try to open a door or to gain access to somebody,
he would be glad to do it. But that was as far as he would
go. And frankly I wanted it that way. I'm a pretty competitive
person and If I was going to have any success the last thing
I would want was for anyone to claim nepotism, or say: "it's
only because he is the son of..." So I was probably harder
on myself than anyone was on me.
were a lot of doors I didn't ask him to open. I just did what
I had to do. At the end of the day someone is going to judge
you on your ability to do the job and you are either going
to do it well or you won't. I just wanted to be a bull in
a china shop and do my own thing [laughs].
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as a producer?
The DVD of Daredevil [laughs]
I suppose you have to say that?
[Laughs] Yeah! But, I am proud of that. I'm proud of a number
of things. I'm proud of seeing Sleepless in Seattle
progress from a little known script into the movie it became.
I'm very proud of Daredevil too. It was the biggest
and most complicated movie that I've produced and it was not
an easy road getting that movie made. But, when we finally
got there and it worked, that was a great feeling.
other highlight I would add to that list is when I was able
to put Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton together
for The Score. That was a cast that will never happen
again and it was exciting to be around that much talent.
Before you became involved with Daredevil were you
a comic book fan?
No, I wasn't. My partner on the movie Mark Steven Johnson
[pictured right], who wrote and directed the movie, was a
huge, passionate Daredevil fan. About seven years ago
he dropped a bunch of comic books on my desk and said: "You
should read these because I am going to make this movie".
had not grown up reading comic books, so I was a little prejudice.
They didn't really interest me, but I started reading Daredevil
and I eventually read every Daredevil book that there
is and I was amazed at how complex it was. I was expecting
"Wow! Bam! Zap!" and in reality it was very dimensional
and character driven. After reading it I realised why Mark
was so passionate about it - it got me exited too.
What were the main problems that you faced translating Daredevil
from the comic books to the big screen?
In terms of the script, the big tightrope we had to walk was
making sure we told a story that worked for an audience that
had no idea that the character came from a comic book, while
at the same time respecting the people who were passionate
about the comic - never betraying their loyalties. I'm the
non-comic book geek, so I tended to say things like: "Ok.
I know you want to do this in the script because it's in the
book and it's a Frank Miller thing... but it doesn't really
add to the film." So, I would make an argument if I felt
that I needed to.
had a really good core group of people working on the project
and we'd always remember that there were a lot of people out
there who had no idea who Matt Murdock was - and you can't
forget that. So as far as designing the story and the script,
they were the challenges.
terms of making the movie, this sounds like a total plug but
I mean this honestly, there are some great features on the
DVD that talk about how hard it is to make a movie. Originally
Daredevil was going to be a $50m movie and it turned
out to be a lot bigger because Spiderman was released
and everyone realised we had to compete at a certain level
but we had nowhere near the resources they had to make that
movie - or even the resources that the makers of X-Men
2 or The Hulk were afforded. So there were a lot
of deals we had to make and a lot of rolling up our sleeves
and trying ways to get great visuals without spending money
that we didn't have.
was trying but, at the end of the day, extremely satisfying
because we pulled off something that I don't think anybody
thought we could for the money we had. And if you go thorough
and listen to some of the documentaries on the DVD there is
a lot of honesty about what we had to go through to get the
movie made. I think it's something to be proud of when you
consider that we took 540 visual effects shots for about the
same cost of around 10 Spiderman shots. A lot of thanks
has to go to the visual effects houses who understood what
we were up against and were willing to take some risks.
I understand that you do a commentary on the DVD. How did
you go about preparing for that? Was it something that you
Mark and I did a commentary together. We just sat down and
watched the movie and went for it. When you have lived with
something for as long as we had with Daredevil it's
pretty easy to look at almost every frame and have a story
to tell. There are some pretty bluntly honest remarks on there
too, which I think are fun. I can't judge my own work, but
hopefully we were informative and entertaining at the same
Would you be involved with another comic book adaptation,
or do you think one is enough?
We are currently in the process of putting together Ghost
Rider with Nick Cage which will start shooting in January.
We are also going to be doing Elektra in May.
If you could be any superhero which would best describe you?
God... that's a tough one. I don't know. I'll have to pick
somebody in the Marvel Universe. I think being Spiderman would
be fun. To be young, in love and have the ability to run New
York, that would be kinda fun [laughs].
What's the most challenging thing about your profession at
The hardest thing is finding good material and competing for
the limited budgets that are out there to finance movies.
Movies are more expensive and they are making fewer of them.
So, it's pretty competitive out there to try and be one of
those 15 movies that 20th Century Fox is going to make next
year. Your passion and salesmanship only goes so far - ultimately
they are going to judge it based on the material and it's
ability to attract 'talent'. It's really hard to get good
How much has the introduction of DVD gone towards revitalising
the movie industry?
I think that DVD movies are becoming an increasingly important
part of the marketplace. And as well as we did with Daredevil
at the box office, more people around the world will see this
movie on DVD than did on the big screen. It gives you an access
that you wouldn't have had in the past.
I love about them is not only that you can see the movie at
home in digital quality, but that you get a whole bunch of
cool extras and you can learn how the movie was made, the
people involved and there is the added fun of searching for
Easter Eggs. It's a fun, interactive experience.
Was that not a nightmare for you though? You've put the movie
together, it's been a success at the box office and now you
have to provide more content for the DVD release.
No! I loved it. Mark and I are huge DVD devotees, so we started
meeting the guys at Fox and the producers of the DVD while
we were shooting the movie. We gave Mark's assistant a digital
video camera while we were filming Daredevil and told
him to shoot everything.
We wanted the DVD to show everything. We've got footage of
Ben Affleck being plastered for his mould [pictured] and loads
of other things we though would be interesting. That was something
we thought of from the beginning and we had fun making it.
Because the industry is becoming more competitive we wanted
to be considered one of the best DVDs.
You mentioned earlier that producing was not a career that
you had originally intended to follow. So if you weren't producing
now, what would your ideal job be?
If I wasn't a producer right now I'd still want to be sitting
in a booth announcing a football game. That's my dream. I
would love to be one of those guys that spends their weekends
watching a sporting event and trying to describe it.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to David Cox at DSA
is available to buy from 20th
Century Fox from 14 July 2003 RRP
£19.99 (DVD) £14.99 (Video)