Despite having earned untold millions from his incredibly successful superproducing career, won an Oscar for his shepherding of a buddy comedy (with heart!) about a math-loving schizophrenic and his favorite imaginary friend, and having recently dragged a troubled, $100 million passion project out of development hell and into a lucrative box office run all by himself, Imagine's Brian Grazer is still tormented by feelings of Hollywood inadequacy. In today's NY Times, Grazer, his signature hair-spikes seemingly wilting with each anguished word, laments that for all of his show business accomplishments, his name is still relatively unknown by the middle-American moviegoers to whom he delivers Russell Crowe-starring cinematic delights every couple of years:
Despite having won Oscars as well as most other film and television awards, Mr. Grazer remains largely unknown outside Hollywood. And while he acknowledges the success of his work, he still craves public recognition.
Mr. Grazer almost passed up a partnership with Mr. Howard because he feared the director's celebrity would overshadow his own role in the company. "He was just too famous for me," Mr. Grazer said. "I felt that no matter how hard I could work, it would always be gigantically eclipsed by him." [...]
"I probably should have a brand," Mr. Grazer said, "but I think you can't get the best artists to work for you if you're branded. I get the trade-off, and I really would like to be more famous for my work, get more credit for my achievements. We all want more of that. But on the other hand, if you get too big — like it says in 'American Gangster' — success is your enemy."
If that final quote is sincere, it seems that if Grazer might finally be making an uneasy peace with his situation, accepting that building an ego-feeding personal brand might hamper his ability to collaborate with more celebrated artists who can help him execute his every mildly quirky vision. Still, we won't believe he's completely internalized this cognitive breakthrough until he has one of his assistants remove the giant, sneering, battered portrait of rival Jerry Bruckheimer that hangs behind his desk at Imagine's headquarters, which he mercilessly attacks with his cherished A Beautiful Mind statuette each morning, crying, "Think you're better than me, Mr. Puts His Producing Stamp On Every Film? I have a fucking Oscar, you pirate-loving hack!," a ritual that allows him to begin yet another Sisyphean day of pushing his anonymous boulder up the hill of public recognition.
Bonus: Nikki Finke explains how Grazer *nearly* received a Thalberg lifetime achievement award at the 2004 Oscars.