Megan Ellison can teach Paris Hilton a thing or two about how to spend daddy’s money. The 25 year old is part heiress to dad Larry Ellison’s (the founder of Oracle) estimated $27 billion fortune, and instead of spending it on bottles of Moët and swag at Kitson, she’s using her father’s dough to bankroll some of the most buzz-worthy films in Hollywood, made by some of its most brilliant filmmakers.
Yesterday, the Times dropped a hefty, insider-y piece on the gestation of There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson’s mysterious Scientology parable, The Master. The script, which had been circulating around Hollywood for a good bit, was considered too risky (re: expensive) for some studios to finance, so in swooped Ellison under her Annapurna Pictures shingle (named after the Hindu goddess of nourishment) to take on the $30 million payload. Now the film is steamrolling to an October 12 release date with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role of a god-like cult leader, Joaquin Phoenix playing a young drifter, and Amy Adams as the love interest. Harvey Weinstein will release it, and barring the end of the world as we know it, Oscar will surely be a part of the conversation.
Today, Ellison’s name is in the headlines again, with the news that she’ll probably put her money where David O. Russell’s mouth is, and fund the testy director’s American Bullshit, which will reunite Russell with his The Fighter star Christian Bale, and will probably add Bradley Cooper, too. Here’s what the rest of Ellison’s 2012 is shaping up like: She’s behind Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden murder movie, Zero Dark Thirty; John Hillcoat’s Prohibition shoot ’em up, Lawless; Wong Kar Wai’s martial arts epic, The Grandmasters; Andrew Dominik’s assassin odyssey, Killing Them Softly (which stars Brad Pitt and will premiere next month at Cannes.) Next year, she’ll pay for a reunion between Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, which, along with Master stars Adams and Phoenix, stars Carey Mulligan.
But Ellison wasn’t always a career-driven honcho with impeccable taste. There was a time, not so long ago, that she found herself spewed on the pages of Gawker, as a so-called “wild child” who’d done time in rehab and lamented her impending loss of youth. Her first films as producer were the Mickey Rourke/Megan Fox laughingstock, Passion Play, and Main Street, a movie starring Colin Firth and Orlando Bloom that meant nothing to no one. That all changed when when Ellison bought her way onto the credits for True Grit, the 2010 Coen brothers Western that scored ten Oscar nominations (it went home empty handed). It’s tempting to dismiss her as a spoiled rich girl who’s using daddy’s infinite coin to buy her way into after parties at Robert Downey Jr.’s house. After all, is there any real risk in putting your faith into and money behind the Paul Thomas Andersons and Kathryn Bigelows of the world? The truth is, $30 million is $30 million, and nothing, particularly in the movie business, is a sure thing. Just ask this guy.