After a chance encounter with a Hollywood script four years ago, the Thompsons went from managing the family’s oil fields to starting a small production company called Cross Creek Pictures. With over twenty projects completed or in production, including the award winning films Black Swan, The Ides of March, and this weekend’s box office hit The Woman in Black, Tyler and Todd make it seem like they’ve been in the production game a lot longer. We caught up with the brothers to chat Gosling versus Clooney, how they got where they are, and how Black Swan is like Fight Club with women.
BULLETT: How’d you come from a small town to producing films in Los Angeles?
TYLER: Well, the oil field is obviously one of the most mundane businesses on the planet. It’s just the same old thing every day. I got tired of just doing that. Four years ago, I happened upon a script called Burning Palms and I put together the financing for that. It was interesting, because Hollywood was in a strange place because all the hedge funds had dried. However, we decided to start a company called Cross Creek Pictures. We hired seasoned veteran Brian Oliver and appointed my dad CEO. We lucked out on Black Swan, thankfully, and that opened the door to a whole bunch of really good films.
So, Burning Palms just landed in your lap?
TYLER: I went out one night in Houma and there was a wrap party for Brittany Murphy’s last movie. I showed up at the bar and I met two producers that were working on the movie and at the time I was totally enamored, so I invited the producers back. On their return visit, one of the producers asked me, ‘Why don’t you come with me to Los Angeles and I’ll show you the studios.’ That was the first time I’d ever been to Los Angeles. I initially went to see if we could possibly cater movie sets (my family also owns a catering company) and on the way back from one of the studios there was a script in the back of a random guys’ car and I look at it. I flipped through and decided to take it home. I ended up loving the script and I was hell-bent on making it happen because I was just excited about doing something new and so we put together the financing for it.
How did Black Swan happen, and did you guys know it was going to be as big as it was?
TODD: We love Darren Aronofsky’s films a lot. We’ve seen Requiem for a Dream and loved it. The only thing we were skeptical about was how the audiences would respond to a ballet movie considering this was the first feature coming out of Cross Creek Pictures.
So you didn’t have a hunch? You just really liked Darren Aronofsky.
TYLER: I mean, it was pretty much, like, it was either going to be a ballet movie or it was going to be a thriller ballet movie with two good-looking girls.
TODD: This was my take on it: When I first read the script my first thought was, This is like Fight Club for women because of the ballet. That’s why I was enamored by the whole thing. I was like, It’s such a cool concept, but the ballet thing kind of throws me off. But we trusted Darren.
What was the process like for making The Woman in Black?
TYLER: I was on a different set, but Brian Oliver, the president of our company, who’s been in the business for over ten years, told us about the script. When the project came along Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t attached to the lead role but the script was really good. The film was director James Watkins’ second time behind the camera, but we liked that he had won Best Horror Film atthe London Film festival the year before, so we attached Danny , and the rest is history.
What do you think a movie needs in order to be successful?
TODD: A camera. Just kidding. I think, essentially, it needs a great script. I think that’s where it all starts. It all differs between what genre the project is, but obviously we saw that attaching Daniel Radcliffe to the Woman in Black was a great idea.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
We just optioned Creed of Violence which Todd Field (In the Bedroom) is set to direct, and it will be about the drug cartels. We’re going to shoot that early next fall. We’re also finishing up Rush, which is a phenomenal film about Formula 1 in the ‘70s, at the height of racing. The story follows Niki Lauda, one of the top racers at the time after he gets in a crash and burns his whole face off, and then gets back into a car, literally six days later and ends up winning the race. Ron Howard is the director, so the film is really going to be special.
Alright, one last question. George Clooney or Ryan Gosling? You have to pick.
TODD: George Clooney.
TYLER: George Clooney. He really did seem like he’s such a genuine, down-to-earth guy. You know, when I met him on set I felt more comfortable talking to him than I did to anybody that was working there.
So it’s two votes for George Clooney.
TYLER: Not that Ryan’s a bad guy.