She jumps from call to meeting to call, yelling out constantly to her three assistants to check on her next obligation. In one ten-minute period, she hunts for the name of a man she wants to invite to the festival (his firefighter son died at ground zero), fires an actor whose role has just been cut from Analyze That, and manages a call from London about a musical that she and De Niro are producing (We Will Rock You, based on the music of the rock band Queen).
She relaxes briefly only when Isham arrives to screen a series of spoof TV ads for the festival, featuring an unshaven Danny DeVito (gruffly acting Tom Cruise's role in Jerry Maguire), Drew Barrymore (pretending to be tough guy Joe Pesci in GoodFellas), and Ben Stiller (hamming it up as Russell Crowe in Gladiator). Rosenthal, beaming, shows off the crystal apples she and De Niro bought from Tiffany as thank-you gifts for the actors, cheerfully admitting, "In another life, I could be a personal shopper."
But as the day wears on, with the pressure to produce two big-budget projects intensifying, her mood flags. At one point, she puts her head down on her desk like a second-grader ordered by a teacher to take a time-out. "I'm having a breakdown," she whispers.
By the time she gets in a Town Car to head home, it's 9 p.m. After arranging for an early-morning pickup so she can watch the dailies from Analyze That, reassuring Juliana, her daughter, on the cell phone ("Please don't go to sleep, I'll be home in a few minutes"), and checking on 3-year-old Isabella, she sits back in the dark and muses, "I keep reminding myself I'm going to make mistakes. I know that no matter what I do, some important person will feel snubbed."
She shrugs and issues an exhausted plea. "I just hope people will understand we're only doing this to try to help downtown."
For all the stereotypes of the movie producer, Rosenthal is not even remotely the Botoxed personal-trainer type. She scarcely wears makeup (just a touch of lipstick), and her eat-what-I-want diet would appall a nutritionist (French fries and spinach for one typical lunch). While she is an occasional yoga enthusiast, her true hobbies include trolling eBay for collectibles (she's addicted to Victorian napkin rings) and shopping for clothes and Manolo Blahniks (low-heeled versions, so as not to emphasize her five-foot-nine-inch height).
"Jane is a high-powered executive, but she's very much a girl," says the blonde Isham; the two of them have a running joke about the blonde versus brunette view of life. A world-class networker, Rosenthal has a loyal cadre of girlfriends who include Wasserstein, Caroline Kennedy, Comedy Central Films vice-president Patty Newburger, and veteran TV reporter Perri Peltz. The latter two are also currently working on projects with Rosenthal. "Jane and I do some of our best work in the changing rooms at Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan," says Peltz. "Walking Madison Avenue is just as good as nine holes on the golf course." Rosenthal has hired so many pals that Peltz and Isham printed up joke business cards for her: "Jane Rosenthal. If you have a friend, I have a job."
Wasserstein, who spent three weeks in the hospital with complications before giving birth to her premature daughter, says Rosenthal was her anchor during those scary days. "She came to the hospital every day," recalls Wasserstein. Rosenthal not only consulted with doctors but brought in the Tony-winning costume designer William Ivey Long to decorate the room. "I named my daughter Lucy Jane after her," says Wasserstein.
Rosenthal's serene apartment in the Dakota, with extraordinary Central Park views, sports Oriental rugs, a collection of antique globes, a Steinway piano, and an entire room devoted to Hatkoff's guitars. The intensely wired Rosenthal met her easygoing husband when he was representing De Niro on a real-estate project. "Jane is a doer, and our entire marriage has been about working on projects together," says Hatkoff, citing the construction of their Bridgehampton home, and their decision to hold a political salon in their living room, where framed photos of the Clintons perch on a side table. Rosenthal and Hatkoff became involved with Democratic fund-raising in 1997 at the instigation of Hatkoff's older sister, Susan Patricof, and her husband, venture capitalist Alan Patricof, who befriended the Clintons back in 1991. "We asked Jane and Craig to do a fund-raiser," says Susan, "because we were looking for a younger crowd, for people who hadn't been exposed to the political scene." Rosenthal, of course, pulled out all the stops: Her first foray featured De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio at the height of his Titanic fame, and a cast of movers-and-shakers for a $25,000-per-person dinner at which Clinton played the saxophone.
The beneficiaries of the couple's energies range from the presidential all the way down to the, um, amphibian -- specifically, a Cuban tree frog that jumped out of a shipment of plants delivered to Rosenthal's office. Rather than kill the creature, Rosenthal promptly called the Central Park Zoo for advice and ended up sending over the frog by limousine. She repeated the story to her husband that night, and when he idly mentioned that the tale might make a good children's book, she jumped on the idea. He typed up a treatment, she shopped it around, and they landed a book deal for what became Cesar's Amazing Journey. "I've learned," says Hatkoff: "Be careful what you wish for around Jane."
The oldest of three children, Rosenthal, now 45, grew up in the provinces (well, Providence), where her father, Martin, ran a prosperous wire import-export business, with her mother, Ina, who also acted in community theater. Her parents divorced in 1985. "My father died on his 60th birthday, which was seven years ago," she says, adding that she has felt his loss even more deeply since September 11. Ina, now living nearby on the Upper West Side, has reinvented herself as a character actress, playing bit parts in films like Conspiracy Theory and Celebrity, as well as in several of her daughter's movies. As she confesses, "I'm not Judi Dench, but I do what I do well."
For all her confidence now, Rosenthal describes herself as an awkward child: "I never fit in. I was always tall for my age. When I would walk down the street with my girlfriends, they'd walk on the sidewalk and I'd walk in the gutter to try to be the same size. I am really shy by nature, painfully shy."
Her mother has a somewhat different version of this story, recalling her daughter as unstoppably self-assured. "Jane was not a straight-A student, she never wanted to go to school. It was too confining for her. She wanted to get out in the world." Considering politics as a potential career, Rosenthal volunteered at 12 for the Rhode Island gubernatorial race and talked her way into Governor Frank Licht's motorcade. "She always had to be at the top of the heap," says her admiring mom. When Rosenthal, 16, was turned down in her bid to be a page in the state's House of Representatives -- receiving a letter stating that those jobs were reserved for college-age men -- she pestered the statehouse until she was hired. Even now, the producer smiles at the memory: "I was the youngest person and the first girl to be a page."
She couldn't wait to get to college, enrolling in an experimental program at Brown University for what would have been her last two high-school years. Tim Forbes, now the chief operating officer of his family's magazine empire, was an upperclassman who met Rosenthal in film class. "She was bright-eyed, precocious, sweet, and focused. The guys were really smitten by her personality," says Forbes, who remains a close friend. They have helped each other out over the years: Rosenthal, as a fledgling movie exec, hired would-be screenwriters Forbes and his wife, Anne Harrison, to write an after-school special; the Forbes family has now offered Rosenthal their floating party boat, The Highlander, for use at the film festival.
Rosenthal arrived in Manhattan in 1975 as a junior at New York University, found an apartment on Bleecker Street ("It faced a brick wall; you never knew if it was rainy or sunny out"), and wangled prestigious part-time jobs as a production assistant at CBS Sports and as a gofer on the workshop production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Patty Newburger also toiled on that project. "Jane was working for the director, I was working for the producer, and the two of them got into a dispute and weren't communicating, and we became fast friends."
Careers are made from small breaks; that spring, as TV-network execs flew to New York for pilot week, Rosenthal had the connections to pull off seats for the sold-out Whorehouse, making her instantly popular. "I could get everybody tickets," she says. Impressed, CBS entertainment executives offered her a job in Los Angeles working on the network's mini-series. "I was cheap labor. My big negotiating demand was that I had to make my age," she says. "I was 21."
During nine years at CBS, she made 70 television movies, from disease-of-the-week weepies to adaptations of books like The Women's Room and Haywire. Eager to establish herself as someone who could scout talent, she signed a number of playwrights she admired to write scripts, including Liz Swados, Peter Parnell, Albert Innaurato, and Wasserstein. "I was lonesome for New York," Rosenthal says. "My secret was, by hiring all these writers, I could come back for meetings. I'm not happy in any city where I can't hail a cab, and you can't hail a cab in L.A."