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Moving With a Different Set

Hollywood veteran Alan Ladd Jr. doesn't care much for e-mail, cell phones or Web surfing. But, boy, does he have some TVs.

September 20, 2001

Hollywood impresario Alan Ladd Jr. has been a mover and a shaker for nearly four decades. By the mid-1970s, he was head of 20th Century Fox, where he brought in George Lucas and "Star Wars" and presided over the release of such classic films as "Alien" and "Young Frankenstein." After leaving Fox, as a producer he picked up a best picture Oscar for "Braveheart." In between, he had a hand in "The Right Stuff," "Blade Runner," "Moonstruck," "A Fish Called Wanda," "Thelma and Louise" and "The Brady Bunch Movie."

Total: more than 150 Academy Award nominations, and in the neighborhood of 50 awards.

Ladd was born Oct. 22, 1937, and has watched as technology has transformed both his business and his life over the decades.

DESKTOP: I have one, but I generally use it only for business activities.

Q: Are you a big e-mail user?

My assistant handles that. For the most part, I call people back on the telephone.

Q: Ever surf the Web?

No. I'm really just not terribly interested in the intimate details of strangers' lives.

Q: Got it. No personal Web pages for you. How do you use the computer for business?

Well, for instance, there's a Web page [] that has information about the film industry: actors, credits, various production people, stuff that revolves around my business. I use the Internet to look up stuff and check facts.

I'd say the biggest difference it's made for me is it's faster. If I'm looking for instant information about an actor, I can get my assistant to immediately pull it up on a computer. I can get that through other sources, but it's more time consuming.

LAPTOP: I don't have one. I don't really feel the need.

Q: So you probably don't carry a pocket computer either.

Actually, I do have a Palm Pilot, but I don't use it for much of anything. Although I do find it good for traveling. If you're stuck someplace, you can punch in your location and ask it for nearby restaurants or movie theaters or shoe stores or whatever you're looking for.

CELL PHONE: I very seldom use one. It drives me crazy, losing connections and so on. And I find it intrusive. I can't stand people chattering on cell phones in restaurants.

Q: I'm guessing you have some serious movie-watching gear.

Well, I have a movie screening room. And I have many TVs in the house.

Q: Anything exotic, like a plasma display?

Yes, I have one. And three satellite television systems.

Q: And anything large?

I have one big TV and about 20 other 35- or 40-inch TVs. I don't really have anything huge anymore.

Q: High-end sound system to go with all that?

Well, stereo sound in every room, but it's just a normal sound system. Maybe I'm just a little tone deaf, but the sound really doesn't matter all that much to me. It's nice to have. But if the content of what's on the screen holds my interest, it doesn't matter whether it's mono or THX. It's about the content to me.

Q: What sort of thing do you watch most?

Sports. That's the big reason I went with satellite over cable. Now I can see all three games at once. It makes other people a little dizzy at first, but eventually they get used to it.

Q: Do you always watch more than one TV?

Well, I wouldn't try to watch "The Practice" and "The Sopranos" at the same time. But given recent events, I might go home tonight and put CNN on one TV while I have something else on another.

Q: Are you a fan of DVD?

I watch movies on DVD, yes, but again, the important thing is the content. If the movie is boring, it doesn't matter whether it's DVD or tape. If it's not well done, it's not well done.

Q: How has technology changed your life?

It's accelerated things dramatically and given them more impact. I'm looking at CNN right now. I'm able to instantly see what's going on all over the world. You're not hearing it over the radio anymore.

--As told to DAVE WILSON

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