A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Hollywood film producer Will Packer. He's the man behind several hit movies, including: Trois, Stomp the Yard, This Christmas and the new adult thriller, Obsessed, which opens nationwide this weekend. The sexy thriller stars actor Idris Elba and superstar singer/actress Beyonce Knowles in a tale about a married man who is stalked by a female co-worker and has his world turned upside down. I spoke with Will about what it was like working with Sasha Fierce aka Beyonce, his latest projects and what it takes to make it in the fickle Hollywood industry.
Check out our Q&A:
BGG: It’s so difficult for a film with a predominately African-American cast to be made in Hollywood, what do you think has been the key to your success?
Will Packer: I think that it’s an attitude of “I can do anything.” I say that because this is an industry that can be very daunting to break into. It’s also an industry that sucks the life out of a lot of people. My business partner and I didn’t have any Hollywood connections or any rich financiers to help us get off the ground, we just had pure ambition and will power. I think that has served us well in this industry. So when you say movies with a predominately African-American cast, those movies aren’t easy to get made, but the truth is that no film is easily made – it’s hard to make any movie in Hollywood. We just take the attitude of “we have a product that Hollywood needs that audiences want to see," it’s just up to us to convince both of those segments that that’s the case.
BGG: What was it like working with Beyonce Knowles in Obsessed since it’s such a huge departure from her previous movie roles?
WP: It was a pleasant experience. When you work with someone like a “Beyonce,” you don’t know what you’re going to get. She’s such a huge global persona. There was a point where I wondering if she'd come to set with a big entourage, would she going to have a diva attitude, are the other actors going to like her and get along…how’s it going to be? It was really pleasant because Beyonce comes to play, she really does. When she shows up on a set and I imagine it’s the same when she’s in a recording studio or on set of a music video, you know that she’s coming to work. You know that she’s showing up and she brings no attitude, no preconceived notions, she brings a work ethic that is 150% all the time and she is willing to work harder than anyone else.
BGG: You’ve worked with Idris Elba on several films, including The Gospel This Christmas what does he bring to your films?WP: Idris is my man! I think he is one of the best actors out in Hollywood today. He’s somebody that people are learning about. He has a core following and has people know him from the Wire, but at the same time he’s not a face that mainstream America sees and says, “Oh, I know his name; that’s Idris Elba. I really do believe that he is somebody that when you look pound for pound for having talent in terms of having that leading man charisma, I think he’s one of the best. He brings depth and layers to his roles, which is very important.
Will Packer on set of Obsessed with Idris Elba and Beyonce Knowles.
BGG: What exactly does being a movie producer entail? WP: I like to use the analogy…when you look at the Oscars, you see all of these categories, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinemaphotography, Best Sound, etc. and at the end of the night, the final award goes to the Best Picture and the producer gets that award. The analogy is that the producer is the person who brought together all of those other elements. A producer is responsible for the overall success, look and vision of a film project. That’s why we producers are always so stressed out and busy all the time because we’re trying to take care of so many different aspects of the project.
BGG: Did you ever expect your 2007 film, Stomp the Yard to be such a huge hit at the box office?WP: Absolutely, no question! I did and I’d tell that to anybody who would listen! I think that Hollywood didn’t expect that and was surprised that it was so successful, but I knew that we had a different project that was very different and knew that there was a core audience who were familiar with stepping and the whole black college experience that would come out. I also knew that we would be able to sell it as a very cool dance movie and I knew that we had a lot of commercial potential.
BGG: What’s next for you? What projects are you currently working on? WP: I’m in post-production on a project called Takers, which is an action movie about a young man who pulls of heist jobs around L.A. It stars Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Matt Dillon, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy, T.I and others.
BGG: What advice do you have for young aspiring film producers? WP: You define your own success and your vision; your dream is not over until you say it’s over. I feel like that’s what’s important. If you’re an artist, grab a digital camcorder and share your art with the people that matter. If you’re in it for commerce, do something that has commercial matter that people are willing to pay to see. Again, I think you define your own success. No matter how many no’s you get, the only answer that really matters is the one that you give yourself.
Do you plan to see Obsessed, which will be in theaters on April 24th? Why or why not? Are you a fan of his other films, such as This Christmas or Stomp the Yard?