New York – Rare is the film producer these days whose resume includes not only high grossing films, but high quality films. David Brown (search) is one of them.
Brown's credits as a producer or studio chief (at one time he ran production for Twentieth Century Fox with his producing partner Richard Zanuck (search)), include some of Hollywood's most critically acclaimed films, including "Jaws," "Cocoon," "Driving Miss Daisy," "A Few Good Men" and "Chocolat," to name a few.
"If you live long enough (working in the entertainment industry) you will become famous," said Brown, sitting down in his midtown Manhattan office for an interview with Fox News.
Perhaps age has something to do with it. At 87 years young, Brown has lived through the many stages of Hollywood, from the studio mogul days of Darryl F. Zanuck, through the super-agent days of Michael Ovitz.
In fact, Brown has an entire book's worth of stories to tell about his life in Hollywood. His tome "Let Me Entertain You," (search) originally published in 1990, was updated last month with tons of new material, which includes anecdotes about many bold-faced names.
"Marilyn Monroe used to come into my office and sit on my lap," he said of the old days. "She was no bimbo; she was smart and wanted to do good roles but she was typecast."
"Darryl Zanuck was a super mogul in the sense that he made decisions and that was that," he said. "If a picture didn't work, he'd take responsibility, if it did work, he took the credit."
"(MCA mogul) Lew Wasserman outlived his own myth," said Brown. "There couldn't be a Lew Wasserman today because movie companies are now blips on the radar screens of large corporations."
"Gregory Peck was one of the world's outstanding liberals," recalls Brown. "And when Richard Zanuck and I presented General Douglas MacArthur to him, he said, 'If I make this picture all my buddies are going to say I sold out.' Well, he did so much research that he began to take on the prejudices and foibles of MacArthur and he began to complain that Harry Truman was getting too much footage in the movie."
Brown has a knack for storytelling. Maybe his talent can be attributed to his early career as a journalist and story editor. After all, a good movie is first and foremost a good story.
As editor in chief of Cosmopolitan (before his wife Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo's longtime editor in chief, even worked for the magazine), Brown worked under the direction of William Randolph Hearst, whose media empire included newspapers, magazines and book publishing.
That was just the beginning of Brown's distinguished career in which he has shared the company of some of the world's most rich and famous people.
"At home I've got a picture gallery, from presidents to movie stars," he said. "A lot of them were nowhere near famous back then."
But for him, it's all about the work.
"At the age of 87 I'm very active in the Broadway theater," said Brown. "I have four movies in the works and I'm writing another book."
That amount of activity is impressive for anybody, but even more so for someone who, according to a 1975 cover story in Time magazine, would never have to work again.
The reason: He essentially created what has now become the Hollywood norm -- the summer blockbuster.
"'Jaws' changed my life," said Brown, referring to the Steven Spielberg film that he and Zanuck produced for Universal Pictures. "('Jaws') started the notion that you could make a fortune in the summer months by going out to many, many theaters. ... In the old days big pictures would be exhibited in one or two theaters, that's it."
Aside from making movies, Brown also continues to write some headlines for Cosmopolitan, and contributes an occasional column to The New Yorker.
But his career as a producer is what put him on the proverbial map. So, what advice does he have for anyone looking to pursue a career as a producer?
"Don't," he said. "The producer is the lowest job on the food chain. The producer is only as good as his or her material. He has to be savvy enough to identify stories that will attract directors and stars, and the producer has to be inured to rejection."
"To be successful, it requires a certain amount of naiveté," he said. "And a failure to face reality."