February 18, 2011
Sid Ganis: The original Hollywood Jew
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HJ: You’re considered a marketing expert. What makes a great Oscar campaign?
SG: You’re asking the wrong guy. I don’t pay attention to the campaigns. Nobody’s gonna tell me by an ad in a paper the one I should vote for. When I vote, it’ll be because I absolutely believe the one I check off is the best picture.
HJ: So what’s your vote for Best Picture?
SG: Yeah, sure I’ll tell you.
HJ: Sounds like you take your voting pretty seriously.
SG: Academy members take their voting seriously. Not just me, not because I’m the “ex-prez” — no, no, no. Every once in a while you hear about somebody who says, “Well, I gave [my ballot] to my housekeeper to fill out.”
HJ: A lot of people would argue that campaign hullabaloo is the determining factor in winning the race. A producer said to me, “Oscar season is like an election,” implying that if you have the clout, the money, and you can throw enough parties, you’ll get a golden boy.
SG: That’s bull——[laughs]. It’s not true.
HJ: It feels like the Oscars are losing some cachet though, because they’re so heavily politicized. Plus, the ceremony’s odd timing — coming at the end of a long awards season — renders the winners a forgone conclusion. Are the Oscars becoming irrelevant?
SG: Hell no! This baby worldwide [the Oscar icon] is the most singular symbol of greatness. I go to an airport now and I either buy The New York Times or a candy bar, and there it is: “World’s Greatest Dad,” and what is it? It’s an Oscar guy.
HJ: But why do the Oscars still matter to the industry, when, let’s face it, box office is the true Hollywood idol?
SG: It’s being honored by your own, your very own. And you can’t get into the academy unless you’re accomplished — it’s not that it’s a secret society, it doesn’t have a secret handshake — it takes accomplishment.
HJ: You’re an excellent Oscar salesman.
SG: But I’m telling you the truth!
HJ: But Hollywood is changing, and like all industries, the increased emphasis on global markets and foreign sales makes its future uncertain. Is Hollywood more interested in pursuing its own success abroad, or is it possible we could see an integration of all indigenous film culture into a more global film industry, perhaps, with its headquarters in Hollywood?
SG: The 800-pound gorilla in your question is Hollywood. The fact is, the people of the world wish to see Hollywood movies. They’re not forced to see Hollywood movies; they want to see Hollywood movies. In China, what do they want to see more than anything, ever? “Avatar.”
HJ: What did Hollywood get so right?
SG: Who knows? [laughs] Movie stars, promotion, publicity. Fine actors — Clark Gable, beautiful Bette Davis, Scarlett O’Hara, Scarlett Johansson (“The Jewess” — who knew?). Beauty. Glamour. Sexuality. All that stuff. Rita Hayworth.
HJ: Do you think the stars of today are as glamorous and compelling as they were in days of yore?
SG: No. And then, every once in awhile, one pops up.
HJ: Who’s your favorite movie star today?
SG: You know who I’m loving? Young Anne Hathaway; this is one talented woman.
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