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Production Chief at Warner Quits Unexpectedly

Entertainment: Lorenzo di Bonaventura denies that skirmishes with studio boss Alan Horn triggered his decision to become a producer.

September 04, 2002|JAMES BATES and ANITA M. BUSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Just two months after getting a major promotion, the top film production executive at Warner Bros. resigned abruptly late Tuesday to become a producer at the studio, saying he was miserable in the new job.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura had periodically clashed with Warner President Alan Horn over budgets and picking movies during the three years they worked together. They frequently had icy relations, although Warner executives insisted that the two were able to develop a working relationship.

In a statement and interview, Di Bonaventura laid the blame entirely on the corporate nature of his job as executive vice president, worldwide motion pictures, which he was promoted to in July. He said that as the job became more corporate, "the less creative it became, and the less creative it became the less joyful it became."

Di Bonaventura said he concluded after an 18-day rafting trip in April and May that he needed to make a change. He said he also decided to make the change after the sequel to "The Matrix" wrapped and with the next "Harry Potter" installment nearly finished.

"At 45 years old, this was my shot to do this," he said.

In a statement, Horn said Warner executives "respect and support" Di Bonaventura's decision.

Asked about his past clashes with Horn, Di Bonaventura said: "Alan is being incredibly supportive of me as a producer. Alan has promoted me and given me a lot of freedom in my job."

According to high-ranking executives at the studio, Di Bonaventura and Horn disagreed on a number of issues, most recently on whether to make another installment in the "Superman" film series, or a film tentatively titled "Batman vs. Superman."

"That's when it started to get rough again between Alan and Lorenzo," said one producer on the lot. "Together Alan and Lorenzo decided to make 'Batman vs. Superman.' Then the 'Superman' script came in and everyone loved it, but there emerged the conflict. Alan wanted to make 'Superman.' Lorenzo wanted to make 'Batman vs. Superman.'

"I know they polled the executives on which to make. Alan overruled Lorenzo and the project was shelved," the producer added. "After that, Lorenzo told people he was really upset at Alan. It wasn't just about this one movie, but it was this project that brought things to a head."

Di Bonaventura was known to have been interested in the Warner presidency after former Co-Chairmen Bob Daly and Terry Semel left the studio, but the job went to Horn instead.

Di Bonaventura worked on such blockbusters as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Matrix." He also was responsible for bringing in the production deals for director Steven Soderbergh and actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

A Harvard graduate and former river-rafting guide, Di Bonaventura joined Warner in 1989 as a production executive. He moved into the top tier at the studio in 1996 when he jointly took over the production reins with Bill Gerber, with whom he openly clashed. Gerber eventually left the studio to become a producer.

With his promotion in July, Di Bonaventura gained oversight of every aspect of the production process, and domestic theatrical marketing was added to his responsibilities. But Horn retained the authority to approve scripts for production.

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