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Spartan Profiles: Bill Mechanic

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            More than one billion viewers from more than 200 countries, including some 40 million in the U.S., were expected to watch this year’s live telecast of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony, popularly known as the “Oscars.”

            The co-producer of this year’s event, Bill Mechanic, ’73, chairman and CEO of Pandemonium Films and former chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, says he finds his current role exciting.  “If you’re a movie buff, you always want to progress to the Oscars,” says Mechanic, a veteran who knows how to produce blockbuster hits.  “Our goal is to keep all that’s been good with the past show and yet make it more fun and also make it shorter.”

            Bill and his co-producer Adam Shankman seek higher ratings, which can be attained with a major hit like Avatar contending for awards. “If a hugely popular show (like Avatar) is a part of it, that makes all the difference,” says Bill, noting the huge ratings jump in 1998, when Titanic—a movie made under his purview at Fox—swept the Oscars. “If there’s a horse race, that’s good for the show,” he adds.

            Few in Hollywood have enjoyed more success than Bill. As head of Walt Disney Studios’ home video and pay television division, he elevated the unit from a minor player to a major force in the industry, revolutionizing its distribution system while increasing revenues from $30 million to more than $3 billion.  At Fox (1994-2000) he oversaw the production of five films that wound up among the top 10 films in box office sales ever. Many of the movies made under his aegis were both commercial hits and Oscar winners—including Braveheart (1995), Independence Day (1995), Titanic (1997), The Full Monty (1997), Boys Don’t Cry (1999), and the iconic Star Wars Trilogy. As an independent producer, he has continued to produce winners.

            His recent stop-motion animation film Coraline, which featured some MSU-related scenes, was nominated for a Golden Globe. Bill is now working on several projects, including Ness, the story of “Untouchable” Eliot Ness, starring Matt Damon;  The Moon and the Sun, a mermaid story starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter); and The C.O., the story of Desmond Doss, the only World War II conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor.

Author: Robert Bao

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