Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies is available to rent or buy on all major digital platforms from 26th April
What makes a great movie? And who decides whether the idea on paper is worth the expense of bringing it to the silver screen? Throughout cinematic history, we have often celebrated actors, directors, cinematographers and writers. But, how often do we celebrate studio executives or producers? The answer is rarely, even though their place in bringing movies to the screen is essential. These figures largely remain hidden behind the camera, their role often misunderstood. And as the Hollywood machine has changed, their role has also morphed into something new. The once-powerful studio executive now part of a corporate world of film making by numbers. The creativity studio executives and producers once carried stifled by a board room culture of shareholder success and risk-averse choices.
However, not that long ago, in a galaxy we are familiar with, executives and producers could make or break a movie idea and a studio’s reputation. Alan Ladd Jr was one of those executives, his passion for film and visual art blazing a trail from the 1960s to the early millennium. His place in film history both undervalued and understated in public. And for those of you who are thinking Alan, who? His catalogue of films speaks for itself. After all, without him, we would not have had Star Wars, Young Frankenstein, The Towering Inferno, The Omen, Thelma and Louise, Alien and Blade Runner, to name but a few. In fact, his CV covers over 140 movies. But that’s not all; Laddie also held two studio head roles at 20th Century Fox and MGM/UA, plus his own production company Ladd.
Son of the troubled actor Alan Ladd, Laddies relationship with his father growing up was both distant and often unloving. And just like many kids who hold unspoken pain, Alan Ladd Jr found peace and solace in his local movie theatre. His weekends spent wrapped in the loving arms of the picture palace where escapism and adventure beckoned. However, despite his challenging relationship with his father, Alan decided to enter the movie business, first as a post boy and then as an agent. And it wasn’t long before he found himself the representative of Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Redford. His early career paving the way to an executive role at 20th Century Fox in the early 1970s.
It was during his time at Fox that Alan Ladd Jr made his name. His tenure often described as a golden age of studio creativity, risk and success. However, his relationship with the board at Fox was less than comfortable, as a new corporate atmosphere began to surround the movie-making business. Despite this, Laddie pushed forward with Star Wars, The Omen, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Alien, 9 to 5 and many more highly successful pictures. His belief in creativity, innovation and storytelling ensuring directors, writers and actors sat in the driving seat. While at the same time ensuring budgets were balanced, box office takings high and audience satisfaction central to success. However, by 1979 Ladd’s conflict with the Fox board had reached a fever pitch. His solution the creation of The Ladd Company with two fellow executives Jay Kanter and Gareth Wigan.
The Ladd Company would bring us Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and Once Upon a Time in America before the end of its contract with Warner Bros. in 1985. Following this, Laddie returned to a studio head role at the troubled MGM/UA, where he tried to turn around the giant oil tanker of a studio before it hit the rocks. His time at MGM/UA gave us A Fish Called Wanda, Thelma and Louise, Spaceballs, Willow and Moonstruck. However, MGM/UA was beyond help by the time the 90s came into view, with Laddie reviving The Ladd Company in partnership with Paramount Pictures. His final years in the movie industry bringing us Braveheart, Gone Baby Gone, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Now enjoying his well-earned retirement from the business. Alan Ladd Jr’s daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones brings us a love letter documentary. Her camera reflecting the intimacy and expansion of a career that helped define the cinema experience of a whole generation. Here, Ladd-Jones explores the changing face of the movie industry over the past six decades. While at the same time never shying away from the impact of her father’s work on family life, including the breakdown of Alan Ladd Jr’s first marriage.
Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies brings together archive footage with interviews involving many of her father’s creative partners, from George Lucas to Richard Donner and Ron Howard. The result is an insightful exploration of her father’s creative genius and his love of diversity and difference in mainstream film. However, there is also a sense of sadness as we reflect on the changes in the studio landscape. Changes that have seen passion and risk replaced by process and profit and creative freedom reduced to tick box audience analytics. Here, Ladd-Jones not only explores the creative passion of her father but asks us all whether a figure like her dad could exist in the modern studio boardroom.
Meanwhile, Ladd-Jones relationship with her father finds a delicate yet thought-provoking voice. His commitment and passion for work leading not only to family breakdown but a childhood spent with a largely absent father. Here, Ladd-Jones bravely explores how childhood perceptions of parental love change as we grow older and reflect on the life our parents enabled us to have. However, at its core, Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies is a richly textured biography. A celebration of individuality, passion and unbridled creativity in a movie industry on the brink of large scale change.