Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies is available to rent or buy on all major digital platforms from the 26th of 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? We have celebrated actors, directors, cinematographers and writers throughout cinema history, 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, and their role is often misunderstood. As the Hollywood machine has changed, their role has also morphed into something new – the once-powerful studio executive is now part of a corporate world of filmmaking 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, 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 is 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 a few. 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.
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Son of the troubled actor Alan Ladd, Laddie’s relationship with his father was distant and often challenging. Like many kids with unspoken childhood pain, Alan Ladd Jr found peace and solace in his local movie theatre. His weekends were spent wrapped in the loving arms of the picture palace where escapism and adventure beckoned. Possibly due to his picture palace childhood, Alan decided to enter the movie business, but unlike his father, his interest lay firmly behind the camera. He would start his career as a postboy before becoming an agent, where he found himself representing Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Redford, to name but a few; however, it was his move to 20th Century Fox in the early 1970s that would prove to be a career-defining moment.
During his time at Fox, Alan Ladd Jr made his name as a visionary producer and executive, with his tenure often described as a golden age of studio creativity, risk and success. However, his relationship with the board at Fox always verged on conflict as a new corporate atmosphere took hold. Despite this, Laddie pushed forward with a series of high-risk projects at Fox, including Star Wars, The Omen, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Alien, 9 to 5 and many more. His belief in creativity, innovation, and storytelling in every project ensured directors, writers, and actors sat in the driving seat. While at the same time, he quietly managed the budget, promotions, screenplay rewrites and box office potential. But by 1979, Ladd’s conflict with the Fox board had reached a crescendo, leading him to leave the studio and create The Ladd Company with Jay Kanter and Gareth Wigan.
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In partnership with Warner Bros, The Ladd Company would bring us Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and Once Upon a Time in America before the end of its contract in 1985. Following this, Laddie would take on the troubled MGM/UA, where he attempted to turn around the giant tanker 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 repair by the time the 90s came into view, leading Laddie to revive The Ladd Company in partnership with Paramount Pictures, where he would bring us Braveheart, Gone Baby Gone, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Alan Ladd Jr’s daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones’ love letter to her father’s career is intimate yet expansive in scale. Here Ladd-Jones uncovers her father’s extraordinary yet quiet career and explores the changing face of the Hollywood machine over the past six decades. In doing so, Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies brings together archive footage, interviews and film clips with her father’s creative partners, from George Lucas to Richard Donner and Ron Howard.
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The result is an insightful celebration of her father’s creative genius and love of diversity and difference in mainstream film. However, this is coupled with a sense of sadness as we reflect on the changing landscape of the studio system. Here Ladd-Jones explores how passion and risk were slowly replaced by process, profit, and analytics. This, in turn, leaves us with a pertinent question, would any of the early projects led by Alan Ladd Jr be greenlit today?
Meanwhile, Ladd-Jones also explores her own relationship with her father, never shying away from the impact of his work. She candidly explores family breakdown and a childhood spent with a largely absent father. Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies is a richly textured biography and a celebration of individuality, passion and unbridled creativity in a movie industry on the brink of change. It’s the story of a man who would change Hollywood forever and give birth to many of our favourite movies; a man who helped create new worlds, new adventures and groundbreaking cinematic journeys.