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59th ACADEMY AWARDS : BEATING THE ODDS : They Gambled Their Time and Energy, and Didn't Give Up

March 29, 1987|PAUL ROSENFIELD

Thus was born a Hollywood relationship. "You could say 'Platoon's' being made was really about my getting to know Oliver. Seeing the dark and light sides, the security and insecurity, the humanism. Of course for a person of such great morals, Oliver doesn't live up to them all the time. There is a materialistic side to Oliver. But maybe the money from 'Platoon' will give him a chance to be more secure."

Maybe. As Daly explained, "I have the wherewithal for a certain budget. I have a library of about 100 films. I have a line of credit with Credit Lyonnais. A movie costing $8 million or under is not a strain to my company. I'm responsible for any short fall, but. . . ." But since being interviewed, Daly and Hemdale have gone public in a reverse takeover (with Computer Memories, Inc.) that makes the company $30 million richer.

Not that there would be any red ink on "Platoon." "By the end of today," Daly summed up in mid March, "Hemdale will finish up--before third parties like Oliver get their share--with between $40 and $50 million. That's on a $5.5 million investment."

How much was luck? The dapper Daly digressed for a moment. Sitting in the cozy offices of the West Hollywood house that doubles as headquarters for Hemdale, Daly looked every inch the modern mogul: Pink Oxford-cloth shirt, Italian moccasins, an Ed Ruscha book on the coffee table, two four-wheel drive Wranglers out front. "Luck is (cosmetics czar) George Barrie, whose first picture was "A Touch of Class." He had a winner to begin with, and 15 losers thereafter. But if you keep going to the table and hedging your bets, you leave yourself with an upside."

(Hemdale was built on a shoestring. When London was London--in the swinging '60s--John Daly was selling life insurance and David Hemmings was on the brink of bankability with Antonioni's "Blow Up." When Hemmings got two tickets to Hollywood for "Camelot," he gave Daly one, and "suddenly I was here doing chores on behalf of David and going to meetings. I apparently had some sort of business brain.")

But Daly isn't looking to become a studio man like his fellow Brit David Puttnam. "My idea is to take chances and create success rather than buy it. Movies with a great big price should be with major studios. Studios need product to satisfy exhibitor relationships. I don't. If I felt I'd peaked I could sit for a year and wait."

Is that then what independent producers really do? Wait for the right one? "An independent producer today," said Daly, pointing both index fingers in the air, "does two things. With one hand he reads the Wall Street Journal, and with the other he reaches for a screenplay." And if you are an English independent producer, "you move to Los Angeles because Los Angeles is 70% of the world."

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