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The Studio Shuffle : Mike Medavoy

December 18, 1994|CLAUDIA ELLER

Then: Chairman of TriStar Pictures, 1990-1994.

Now: In process of launching entertainment company with two partners and investors.

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He no longer wields power as one of Hollywood's handful of movie studio moguls. But don't tell Mike Medavoy he's any less a player today than he was for the two decades when he was a top executive at United Artists, Orion Pictures or, most recently, TriStar Pictures.

"I may not have the stripes, but I have something to show for the last 20 years," says Medavoy, 52, who is now taking meetings and fielding phone calls from the library of his sprawling Beverly Hills mansion.

Medavoy did not leave with a lucrative production deal commonly offered to former studio heads, so for the past several months, he and two partners--former Carolco Pictures President Peter Hoffman and former head of Columbia/TriStar International Arnie Messer--have been talking to investors about financing their own entertainment venture.

One recent afternoon, the driveway of Medavoy's villa off Coldwater Canyon is lined with cars. The door is answered by one of Medavoy's personal assistants; several people are busily milling about.

Medavoy gives a quick tour of the downstairs quarters. A living-room mantel holds several Golden Globe trophies and Academy Award plaques for movies in which he's been involved, including "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus," "Dances With Wolves" and "Philadelphia."

Plopping on a sofa in front of photos of himself with several U.S. Presidents, Medavoy reads from a list of projects he left behind at TriStar that are now coming to fruition.

"These were all my movies," he says, sounding rather melancholy.

Letting go seems hard for Medavoy, who went through a painful time both professionally and personally when he left TriStar in January after clashing with then-Sony Pictures chief Peter Guber. "I had a tough year with leaving there and my marriage failing," he says, referring to his breakup with Patricia Duff Medavoy. "I went through a series of betraying moments."

As for leaving TriStar, Medavoy says, "I have no bitterness toward senior management. . . . I'm not depressed about it. I know it's part and parcel of doing the job."

Medavoy, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years and was once a high-powered agent for clients such as Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, says, "I'm not devoid of friends or work. . . . there's a lot going on in my life."

Medavoy acknowledges that though he never allowed himself to be totally consumed by the job, "I think I may have lost some perspective on myself and the people around me. . . . I probably let some things happen to me without reacting and confronting people.

"You do give up something. . . .Maybe you do disconnect on some personal level with your wife. Or maybe you disconnect with people you're close to."

He said someone once criticized him for not seeming vulnerable.

"The worst thing you can do in this town is appear vulnerable, because then they go for your throat," he says.

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