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THE ENVELOPE | THE CORNER OFFICE

Paramount's dream girl

With Gail Berman's help, will one of the studio's films see its Oscar wish come true?

December 13, 2006|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GAIL BERMAN completed an entertainment hat trick of sorts when she joined Paramount Pictures as president in early 2005, making her Chairman Brad Grey's first major hire.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Berman, 50, began working in theater with such productions as the Tony-nominated "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" before moving into television, where she was a producer of the cult favorite "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and served as president of Fox Entertainment.

Paramount's awards contenders include "World Trade Center," "Babel" from its Vantage specialty unit and two films --"Dreamgirls" and "Flags of our Fathers" -- through its DreamWorks SKG unit.

You have a lot of potential awards nominees such as "World Trade Center."

One of the first things we did was read the script. Oliver Stone was the kind of filmmaker Brad and I had been talking about when we wanted to make the studio filmmaker friendly.

Did you hesitate about the subject?

We talked a lot about it. Is it the right time? Is it ever the right time? But we felt it came down to the story of two men on a day that changed all of our lives.

What about "Dreamgirls?"

Before we acquired DreamWorks, David Geffen, who has been spearheading this for 25 years since he produced the Broadway show, called Brad and asked, what do you think about coming in? It turns out to be one of my favorite shows of all time. My show, "Joseph," played across the street.

They both got nominated for Tonys and lost to "Nine." I know every beat of the music. It was easy for me to step in to be a studio rep on this, being so obsessed and knowing every word of dialogue and every breath, pathetically.

Why did it take so long to get to the screen?

I asked David that question. There had been moments when it seemed like it would happen, but it never was exactly the right time. He's been a great protector of the material and the legacy.

Did you grow up watching the Oscars?

My God, yes. My mother used to say "it's a sweep" so much that it's become a family joke; I wanted to kill her. I'd say, "It's not a sweep. There is an opportunity for others to win here."

When would she say it?

Five minutes into the show.

james.bates@latimes.com

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