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Cooper Named Production Chief at DreamWorks

May 28, 1997|CLAUDIA ELLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert Cooper, whose short-lived tenure as president of TriStar Pictures ended earlier this month, is joining DreamWorks SKG as head of production.

In another new hire expected to be announced next week, Ann Daly--former Walt Disney Co. home video chief--is coming aboard as head of animation for the fledgling studio venture of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Cooper will manage the day-to-day operations of the live-action features division, reporting directly to Spielberg and Walter Parkes, who co-heads the unit with his wife, Laurie MacDonald. Neither the three partners nor any executives at DreamWorks have titles, but essentially Spielberg and Parkes call the creative shots in live action, while Katzenberg is responsible for animation and television. Geffen oversees music.

Daly, who worked for Katzenberg for more than a decade when he was chairman of Disney Studios, will report to her former boss at DreamWorks. Her Disney contract expires in September.

Cooper will officially join DreamWorks in September after an excruciatingly tense nine-month stint at TriStar, where he never meshed with the collegial approach of the new management team headed by Sony Pictures chief John Calley. Cooper, who was used to more autonomy in his former post as head of HBO Pictures, was hired by the previous Sony regime.

Some sources wonder if he'll fit in at DreamWorks, where again, he won't have the final say.

At DreamWorks, Cooper will have both administrative and creative responsibilities in overseeing movie development and production. He will manage the company's small staff of creative executives as well as work with talent agents, producers, directors, writers and actors on the company's slate of movie projects.

DreamWorks, formed in October 1994, has been slow by industry standards in putting its movies together. Its first live-action offering, "Peacemaker," starring George Clooney, is due out Sept. 26, followed by "Mousehunt," with Nathan Lane, at Thanksgiving and "Amistad," a period piece directed by Spielberg, at Christmas.

The company will release its first animated movie, "Prince of Egypt," in November 1998.

While at TriStar, Cooper did not package any movies but mainly oversaw the production of such preexisting movies as "The Mask of Zorro"; Jim Brooks' "Old Friends"; Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's "Godzilla"; "My Best Friend's Wedding," starring Julia Roberts; and Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers."

Parkes and MacDonald, who as producers had worked with Cooper on "Zorro," have been looking for someone to help ramp up the feature department at DreamWorks for some time.

With Cooper's help, they hope to increase the load to a full schedule of seven to 10 movies a year.

While he lacks experience in the feature arena, Cooper is considered a smart executive with good taste. At HBO, where he worked for eight years before joining Sony last summer, he oversaw such award-winning films as "Barbarians at the Gate," "And the Band Played On," "The Burning Season" and "Citizen X."

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