MARIO F. KASSAR
A major innovator in international motion picture productions, financing and distribution.
Mario Kassar's decades of experience as both producer and executive producer of worldwide blockbusters can be characterized like his movies: action-packed. Kassar has released 36 motion pictures, which have been nominated for 16 Academy Awards, is largely considered to be the godfather of international film distribution and marketing.
Renowned for his talent for green-lighting projects that go on to become worldwide blockbusters, Kassar served as Executive Producer of such hits as the Rambo films, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Basic Instinct, Total Recall, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Cliffhanger and Stargate, among others. In total, his films as producer and executive producer have grossed more than $3 billion (today's value) in worldwide theatrical box office.
Kassar was born in a catholic family, Lebenese father and Italian mother, in Beirut 1951. Kassar's father was a producer of independent movies, and Mario started to show interest in movie business when he was a young boy. Raised in Italy and south of France, Kassar started to distribute Italian and French movies to Far East at age 18.
At the age of 28, Kassar's early efforts as an independent filmmaker began with small-scale release films such as The Amateur and Victory and shortly thereafter struck up a friendship with Hungarian-born Andrew G. Vajna. The two moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s to begin their careers as filmmakers. Kassar quickly became known as an incredibly creative producer in the motion picture industry and a pioneer in foreign market film distribution.
In 1976, Kassar co-founded Carolco, which became a major force among independent production companies. Carloco's first production venture made motion picture history when a new American hero, John Rambo, was introduced to audiences in First Blood. This Sylvester Stallone action adventure became an international blockbuster, grossing $120 million worldwide. Three years later, in 1985, the company released Rambo: First Blood Part II, which grossed $300 million worldwide.
With Carolco, Kassar was executive producer on such films as Alan Parker's Angel Heart, Rambo III, and Johnny Handsome. Other projects include "Music Box", Mountains of the Moon, Total Recall, Air America, Narrow Margin, and Jacob's Ladder.
In late 1989, Kassar became the sole shareholder and chairman of Carolco Pictures. He subsequently executive produced such films as the critically acclaimed Rambling Rose (which received two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress), The Doors, LA Story, Terminator 2: Judgement Day (which grossed over $500 million dollars worldwide, was nominated for six 6 Academy Awards and won four), the erotic suspenseful Basic Instinct (which garnered two Oscar nominations for best editing and best original score), Universal Soldier, and Cliffhanger (1994, which earned three Oscar nominations).
The success of the sci-fi film Stargate established a cable series in 1997 entitled "Stargate SG-1". Worth mentioning is Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr. playing the life of legendary actor Charlie Chaplin, directed by Lord Richard Attenborough, which was honored with three Academy Award nominations, including one for Robert Downey Jr. for Best Actor and three Golden Globe nominations.
As budgets for Carolco's films grew, the box office intake and diminishing VHS market began to collapse the financial structure by 1995. The failures of both Cutthroat Island and Showgirls, together with weak financial advices, forced Kassar to file Carolco Pictures into bankruptcy.
In 1998, Kassar reteamed with his former partner Andrew Vajna to form C-2 Pictures. Their intention was to produce the event oriented films that they are both known for. They produced I-Spy (with Eddie Murphy) for Sony Pictures and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), which it's release allowed a window for the franchise to gain new-life: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
According to Hollywood insiders, Kassar's strong come back to silver screen after the Carolco, was nearly impossible in the entertainment industry and the fact that Terminator 3 became a successful movie shows Kassar's incredible talent to overcome the obstacles in the film business and is a proof of his passion to make movies.
Kassar is still making pictures and is currently producing the remake of Japanese Horror classic "Audition", originally a hit novel by Murakami Ryu and later adapted into a Japanese language film by Director Miike Takashi. Another movie that is in planning stages is "The Wall".
Kassar created a successful business model for the international market. With the efforts of other pioneers like Dino De Laurentiis, Kassar and Vajna paved-the-way for Hollywood foreign sales and exhibition - their effort during the 1980s is now the "industry standard" in today's Studio system.
- Whenever I've done a picture I've always tried to make it a fun experience; especially when we were starting out, because it was really tough to get our first pictures made... So if there's no fun, then there's no point in doing it.
- I'm not a dentist or a lawyer; making movies is the only thing that turns me on.
- Independent film is difficult to produce. No matter what you do for financing, there's always a piece missing.
- I think the road to becoming a producer is one thing, the road to becoming a director is more interesting.
- I find myself talking to more and more young filmmakers these days and the one piece of advice I give: ...don't force it! If the material is good, the people in this town will know it.
- Making more than one movie at a time isn't producing anymore - it's project management.
- I enjoy the franchise, but producing it is a headache... The rights are complicated.
- In those days when I was bidding on something everyone who was capable got in on it because I had this bubble and this streak going and people wanted to try and take something away from me, especially from us, because we were the foreign guys.
- ...If it costs you 1 dollar a day to open your eyes ... you need to make 2.