Tartikoff placed himself in the middle of the debates now raging over big-budget movies. On "Patriot Games," he added about $7 million to a $25-million budget in order to get a better cast and special effects. But he cut the budget on "All I Want for Christmas" to $12 million. Overall, he said he expects Paramount's slate to cost slightly under the industry average of about $27 million.
One of Tartikoff's most pressing duties is replacing Mel Harris, the respected president of the Paramount Pictures television group. Harris announced on Sunday that he is leaving his post Oct. 1. Harris had been seen as a possible successor to former Paramount chief Mancuso before Tartikoff got the job earlier this year.
Tartikoff hopes to replace Harris by mid-September, but declined to name those being considered for the job. Tartikoff said he asked Harris to stay, but that Harris, whom he called "a very buttoned-up guy," was uncomfortable with his hands-on management style.
"Basically, I'm a quarterback that scrambles out of the pocket," Tartikoff said. "And I told him, 'This is who they (Paramount's corporate management) bought.' But he felt much more comfortable with the way things had been than the way they were going to be."
Tartikoff said the future of another top executive, movie production chief David Kirkpatrick, is secure at Paramount. But there remains widespread speculation in the industry that Tartikoff will install his own production chief.