Celebrity Interview: Lorenzo di Bonaventura: A Hit Producing Machine

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SALT, the espionage thriller from Sony Entertainment and Columbia Pictures, starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor is savoring a summer of sweet success as it retains its box office flavor.

Directed by Phillip Noyce and produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, SALT has remained on a steady trajectory since its premiere and should round out the summer as one of the top three highest grossing films of the 2010 summer box office.

In addition to Angelina Jolie and Director Phillip Noyce, whose roundtable interviews were posted in "SALT Adds Flavor To The Summer Box Office" and "The SALT Interviews Continue with  Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor," Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura also attended the July SALT Junket and participated in the Roundtable interviews.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, spent the 1990's as an Executive at Warner Bros eventually rising to President of Worldwide Productions. He eventually formed his own productions company, di Bonaventura Pictures which is based at Paramount.

As EVP at Warner's, di Bonaventura's primary responsibility was to determine the public's appetite for films. With almost militaristic precision he became a hit producing machine with a string of commercially successful and even critically acclaimed films for Warner's and on his own.

Bonaventura participated at the recent SALT junket in Washington DC and below is our exchange. For the fifteen minutes we had he was charismatic and seemed genuinely good natured, fun to talk with and forthcoming.

Janet Walker: I read that you were an executive at Warner Bros and a graduate of Wharton, why did you  transition from MBA/Warner's Exec to film director?

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura: [laughing] Producer.

Janet Walker: [laughing] Producer.

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura: There's a long answer to that question. It is a lot more fun. There are certain things about being an Executive that are really fun. You can make certain movies as an Executive that you cannot get done in any other job in our business. But as Producer you get to live with your movie. You get to spend frustrating hours and you get to spend really exciting hours. You get to see the fruit of the whole process in a way that you can't as an executive.  So, I enjoyed both jobs actually a lot. This job has a tremendous advantage and you really get to feel every good and every bad decision you make. 

Janet Walker: From concept to completion, basically you said, the movie went through a lot of changes, it sat on someone's desk who picked it up, from point of concept to in-can or finished or digital whatever the current term, how long did it take to make the film?

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura: Seven or eight years. I don't remember exactly  We developed this five years before it got sold and I think it been roughly two years since they bought it maybe a little more. I think from the first time I read a draft until now it's probably seven and half years. I think I'm right on that.

At this point the roundtable erupted in a free discussion on the film and the driving motivation with Mr. di Bonaventura laughing over the reactions of the table to which this question followed.

Janet Walker: I saw the movie last night with everyone else and her [Angelina Jolie/Evelyn Salt] first response is "I got to contact my husband, I got to contact my husband" and I hear everybody saying that was her driving force saving her husband but it didn't appear to me to be that. To me, it appeared her driving force was her loyalties and we didn't know where they were. Were they with her husband; were they with her country, were they with her cover, were they with the president; were the with the agency?

So as you're making this film, we're all talking about how this is the driving force and you say there is no difference in what a hero would do. So where, I just not sure, I know I saw the same movie as everyone else. I'm just trying to figure out is there that one interpretation. Do you think that there is that one interpretation or do will there be multiple?

Lorenzo Di Bonaventura:  I think she knows from the beginning. The moment she's called in she understands her husband's in jeopardy. So, I think it is on an emotional level her primary objective. I think her loyalties are defiantly part of it. She is not a singular emotional character. There are a lot of different colors to the character. I think one of the things that is so interesting about the movie is that it breaks every rule that I've ever been taught growing up in the movie business on how you deliver the lead of the movie.

We purposely let you [the audience] worry about either the ability to root for her or affiliate with her or and that is usually something that would kill a movie. My whole career I spent time trying figure out to get you to root for the movie star. This is the purposeful attempt in making you [wonder] 'What's your idea about some of her actions and some of her decisions?' I think that makes it [the movie] fresher in a way and one of the things I particularly like about this movie is that we don't [decide for the audience] it's not black and white. It's gray and a lot of other colors, too.

Debuting at 2010 Comic Con, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Di Bonaventura pictures introduce the cast of RED, a CIA acronym for Retired Extremely Dangerous starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman. RED is a comedic look at former high level CIA agents, their supposedly quiet retirement years and what they do for fun. It is scheduled for a Fall 2010 release.

The final interview of the SALT junket features former Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge,  US Intelligence Officer, Middle East counterterrorism expert, Melissa Mahle, Director of Communications and Analysis, Bush Administration, Kirk Whitworth, KGB General Oleg Kalugin.