Actors produce in Hollywood. Why not on Broadway?

Out there in the hills of Hollywood, it’s not uncommon for a movie star to take on the title of Producer, either on his or her own films or on other properties as well.

Look at the current hit Moneyball . . . starring and produced by the one and never lonely, Brad Pitt.

Look at Tom Hanks, who has come a long way since “Bosom Buddies,” and is listed on the producing team of Mamma Mia!, among others.

So why don’t we see more Broadway stars sitting on stools at Sardi’s?

The answer is pretty simple . . . in Hollywood, those Producers aren’t responsible for raising the money.

And, of course, in many cases, their Producer title is more about control over their brand, and in other cases, just something else their agents can grab for them in their negotiations.

So, I do get it.

But still . . . wouldn’t it be interesting to see Nathan Lane produce a show?  What about Bernadette?  Or Norbert Leo Butz?  These are people with great artistic taste . . . surely they could pick a hit, right?  Or add a perspective to the table that maybe hadn’t been heard before?

And surely, their name above the title would sell a few tickets.

I’m not sure how it would work out if a show used the Hollywood model . . . because honestly, I think so many Hollywoodisms are about ego instead of art.  It would obviously depend a lot on the actor and on the piece that they were presenting.

But it’s certainly something I’d like to see more of . . .


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– 16 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

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  • Craig says:

    Not sure how SAG works, but when I was listed as producer on an Equity Showcase that I performed in, Equity sent me a letter saying that it was a conflict of interest, and I would be unable to cast votes at Equity meetings until the production was over, and I sent a written letter asking to be taken off the conflict list.
    With a union that makes an actor jump through that many hoops for an Equity showcase, just imagine what they would do on a Production Contract.

  • Lisa V says:

    I do believe the argument runs that the formation of Actors Equity was what killed the ability of actors to produce. Isn’t that why George M. Cohan opposed the Union?
    Also, I think another reason this phenomenon is more common in Hollywood has to do with the presence of big studios. I feel like its de rigeur lately for studios to give overall deals to stars and their production companies. I seriously doubt we would see as many actor-driven production companies (hence actor-producers on projects) if someone wasn’t willing to cover all expenses.

  • Eric Grunin says:

    Maybe you should ask Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Rosie O’Donnell about their experiences?

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Elton JOhn’s name above title didnt help next fall. A movie ticket is onl 12 bucks. The star who has their name above the title would have to be in the show for a hundred dollar ticket.

  • Becca says:

    Nathan Lane produced Sleepwalk With Me.

  • Bryan David says:

    Brad Pitt is producing what he believes in. Original works are a BIG risk. They can have HUGE returns. As the Producer; he believes in the work. He is not afraid of the unknown or of the dark. Do you know any Producers who are not afraid of the unknown and are not afraid of the dark?
    “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™

  • Michael says:

    Really successfull Broadway songwriters used to produce shows. R&H not only produced their own shows (as L&L did their own Camelot), but also produced Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. How about a show produced by Stephen Schwartz?

  • Malini says:

    Bette Midler, whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell produced productions. Though they seem so much more NY than Hollywood.

  • Yosi Merves says:

    Elaine Paige produced and starred in Anything Goes in London.
    Michael Minarik is currently a producer and actor in Rock of Ages.
    Other actors that have recently produced shows they were not part of the cast for include Randy Donaldson, Frankie James Grande, Andrew Asnes, and Adam Zotovich. Although that might be a change in careers.

  • Citypath says:

    can’t wait to see moneyball!

  • Heather says:

    Actors produce all the time in the downtown/”Indie Theater”/Off-off Broadway world. I’m one of them. I produce two productions a year, and there are many more who produce way more than that. It’s hard effing work as you can imagine, most of us have “money jobs” to be able to do it. We could talk on and on about how AEA makes this difficult to near impossible, but I suspect that’s a subject for a different blog.
    I enjoy your blog and I learn a lot from it but there is more to New York theater than just Broadway.

  • charlotte cohn says:

    I have been producing for the past two years while continuing my acting career. I mostly wish it was more accepted by the Broadway/ off-broadway community. but I think it’s just a matter of time. I would like to see more actors include producing to their resume, as it can only help the business at large.

  • the other ken says:

    I saw the cirque at rcmh. That place is too big even for them. I like your positive approach. This is why Godspell is going to be a monster hit besides the fact that its a great show.

  • Margie Goldsmith says:

    Yup, I agree with you, Ken. We can’t disallow Cirque as much as it filters away so much Bway Bucks. What annoys me about Cirque (I saw one of their shows in Montreal, their home), is their merch beaks. With Cirque, it’s not an intermission — there are TWO half hour breaks whose primary purpose is to sell merchandise. Outrageous overpriced merchandise. Unfortunately, Cirque is becoming the new Disney.

  • Agreed — if Cirque — which really is, after all, a circus, no matter what — is that competitive with Broadway, then Broadway better figure out what it’s doing.

  • Art Is Art Patti says:

    Patti Put A “Lu Cone” In It! First of all Zarkana is a horrible show. It’s flat and boring. To compare it to Broadway is like comparing Screen performances to stage performances. Stage performances are way better , but the issue can be argued until the sun comes up. To be honest most cirque shows have gone places and done things where Broadway has never succeeded with all due respect to Broadway. I mean Spiderman couldn’t even swing and cirque has been doing it for years. Also I might add Cirque’s show ” O” is hands down the most amazing show I’ve ever seen as far as creativity! I mean turning a hard floor into a swimming pool and the performers swimming and then dancing! That’s pretty amazing! I just get so mad when other artists try to knock other artists. And excuse me Ms. Lupone , but what about your $136 a ticket for a cabaret act with you and Mr. Patankin that could be done at Town hall for $55! I’m just sayin

  • Bryan David says:

    Dear Mr. Davenport, et al:
    Really, Five-Years? I can’t get Five-Weeks off- Broadway (as of yet!) But a Producer with vision who is NOT afraid of dark will change that…
    “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™

  • ECP says:

    While I appreciate the cheerleading for theater- district shows, this is also a bit NIMBY and an all beef patti. Say Cirque did not exist. We’re still left with that major marketing/branding/outreach/education
    challenge: If you don’t know a particular playwright or a particular play and you’re facing a huge ticket price, what are you going to do? You’re going to go with what you know…

  • Margie says:

    Ken, Great news! My Bway obsessed friend said:
    good news–heard really fabulous things about Godspell from very savvy performeer who knows everything about theatre

  • Cedric says:

    Thank you, Heather. I completely agree. The Broadway actors who produce shows don’t necessarily produce shows they are in. However, in Indie Theatre, we often have to wear different hats just to get the show off the ground. Most Broadway producers are looking for a return. For most of us, it’s about the love of theatre, not the love of money.

  • Jon Kakaley says:

    Sometimes Hollywood actors do raise money for their films. My friend works with Tom Cruise, and I can tell you for a fact that he’s made personal visits to investors to get money for his films. In MI3 he even invested some of his own money. I don’t know about Brad Pitt, but I’d imagine it’s the same for him.
    Makes sense. Who better to ask for money than the face that’s supposed to sell the tickets?

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