The Influentials: Movies

Photo: Roger Deckker

Spike Lee
You can’t watch a political New York film, a Brooklyn film, a Harlem film, or a September 11 film without thinking that Spike Lee got there first (if only he could have so great an impact on his beloved Knicks). More important, Lee serves as artistic director of the talent factory that is the NYU Film School, making him not only an inspiration to current directors but also a mentor to future ones. This year, he reemerged as a filmmaker with Inside Man—boosting his once-flagging Hollywood clout. And he’s currently prepping a Hurricane Katrina documentary.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actor, co–artistic director, the LAByrinth Theater
Whereas the elder Methods like Brando and Pacino thrived by exuding sexiness, he wins an Oscar and two Tonys by disappearing—with mesmerizing performances in a baffling range of work, including Capote, Magnolia, Flawless, and Happiness, and, onstage, True West and Shakespeare in the Park. Hoffman is redefining the idea of a leading man and paving the way for a new wave of character-driven cinema that’s making stars out of New York chameleons like Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, and Liev Schreiber.

John Sloss
Founder, Cinetic Media and Sloss Law Office LLP; principal in InDigEnt
The most powerful film agent in New York, Sloss is the unseen hand sculpting the indie-film world. He’s rated executive-producer credits on more than 45 of the most cutting-edge (and most marketable) indie films in recent years, from documentaries like The Fog of War to indie hits Far From Heaven and Boys Don’t Cry. But it’s not just his instincts; Sloss is tracking down new film funding from diverse sources, such as hedge funds and Native American casino owners. Sloss is most revered as an entertainment lawyer, lapping every other sales agent in New York and representing the city’s hippest film-client list, including Bob Dylan, Richard Linklater (and his new documentary, Fast Food Nation), and Christine Vachon’s Killer Films. He has emerged as the top broker at Sundance, catapulting Napoleon Dynamite in 2004, then scoring this year’s biggest deal for Little Miss Sunshine.

Michel Gondry, Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg on the set of The Science of Sleep, 2006.Photo: Warner Independent/Everett Collection

Michel Gondry
The transplanted Frenchman’s homemade, pop-charged playfulness and pure embrace of mind-blowing technique—on display in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and the forthcoming The Science of Sleep—are leaving their mark on the spotless minds of a new generation of New York auteurs. “He’s the guy all the young filmmakers are trying to copy,” says Phil Morrison, director of the Oscar-nominated Junebug. “People sit around wondering, How’d he pull that off? How’d he do that? People study his shots like they study Scorsese’s.” Movies: Lindsay Lohan, James Schamus, the Weinsteins …

James Schamus
President, Focus Features; film professor, Columbia University
Has reinvented the suit. No studio head is more trusted by directors than Schamus, and no wonder: His sensitive and subtle handling not only got Brokeback Mountain made but also took it all the way to the Oscars. A rare executive with heavy-duty artistic credibility, this Berkeley English Ph.D. made his name co-writing scripts with Ang Lee. Now, with the recently promoted producer David Linde, Schamus has built Focus into a director-friendly, defiantly cosmopolitan mini-major that has fostered directors from Sofia Coppola and Michel Gondry to Fernando Meirelles and Todd Haynes.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein
Co-chairmen, the Weinstein Company and Dimension Films
Who else could have single-handedly (and, okay, ham-fistedly) pulled off the largest independent-movie start-up in New York history? Their star may have lost some luster, but they have a bankroll of more than $1.2 billion. It’s already paid for films based on Warhol’s Factory and The Nanny Diaries, as well as stage rights for a spectacle based on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yes, the Weinsteins essentially invented the indie-film market: That’s yesterday’s news. The way they distribute their new capital will dictate the course of New York film production.

Scott Rudin
Producer, Scott Rudin Productions
Forget the tantrums. Rudin is the city’s most powerful artistic triple threat. In film, he’s currently shepherding projects from an enviable list of directors, including the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and Kenneth Lonergan. On Broadway, he’s co-produced plays for Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and, recently, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Doubt. In publishing, a Scott Rudin book option can make a writer’s career (at least financially). And his forthcoming adaptations read like a Who’s Who of au courant literature: Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections), Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), and Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), for starters.

Jane Rosenthal
Co-founder, Tribeca Productions and Tribeca Film Festival
Rosenthal’s partnership with Robert De Niro, Tribeca Productions, has spawned some so-so comedies (Meet the Fockers and Analyze That), a few small gems (Stage Beauty, About a Boy), and one festival that may change New York’s film scene forever. The Tribeca Film Festival started out as a way to boost downtown’s spirits and economy after 9/11, but Rosenthal’s smart commercial partnerships (American Express) have brought glitzy megaplex films to a young fest that might otherwise have fizzled. Tribeca gets better—and more important—every year, both as a destination for film lovers and as a breeding ground for homegrown filmmakers.

Leslee Dart
President, the Dart Group
After Dart was axed by Pat Kingsley from Hollywood powerhouse PR firm PMK/HBH, she pulled a Jerry Maguire and hung out her own shingle three weeks later. A year later, she has partnered with studio expert Amanda Lundberg, Miramax Oscar ace Cynthia Swartz, and PMK’s Robert Garlock and together they’ve attracted a roster that includes some of New York’s biggest movie institutions: Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack, Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Meryl Streep, and Ron Howard.

Photo: Todd Williamson/Filmmagic

Lindsay Lohan
For better or worse, she’s setting a new template for how a teen star grows up. Lohan recently signed on to her sixth indie film in a row, a run that’ll see her collaborate with Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Kline, and Adrien Brody. Equally impressive is her uncanny ability to keep herself in the tabs with a parade of debasements that have knocked Paris Hilton into history. And she hasn’t turned 20 yet. Movies: The Prodigies’ Progeny

The Prodigies’ Progeny
“Every filmmaker that comes out is influenced by Martin Scorsese,” Woody Allen once said. And he’s right—Scorsese is the most imitated director since, well, Woody Allen. It’s hard to make a film about this town—or anywhere else—without ripping off one or the other. Now that their best work may be behind them, it’s time to round up their cinematic offspring.

Woody Allen’s Progeny

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Wireimage

David O. Russell
Given its “existential detectives” and comic philosophy, I ♥ Huckabees could be called I ♥ Woody.

Nicole Holofcener
Really, couldn’t every Allen movie be titled Friends With Money?

Alexander Payne
Woody could have written—or played— the lead in Sideways.

Terry Zwigoff
The vintage-record-loving girls of Ghost World were practically little Woodys in drag.

Edward Burns
Sidewalks of New York was Woody Lite for the goyim.

Nora Ephron
May still be paying him royalties for When Harry Met Sally.

Todd Solondz
Borrowing less from Allen’s films than from his frumpled public persona.

Noah Baumbach
The Squid and the Whale updated Woody’s world: intellectuals with sexual issues.

Martin Scorsese’s Progeny

Photo: James DeVaney/Wireimage

Fernando Meirelles
The Brazilian film City of God was the freshest take on Mean Streets in ages.

Paul Thomas Anderson
Boogie Nights clipped from GoodFellas, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver—sometimes all at once.

Quentin Tarantino
Reservoir Dogs was a Scorsese film by a video clerk who’d watched way too many Scorsese films.

Wes Anderson
Scorsese himself nodded to the Bottle Rocket director as “the next Scorsese.” Though he could just as well be on Allen’s list.

Ang Lee
Both reimagined race-based genre films with grace and agility (GoodFellas; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Wayne Kramer
Just one of many who apes Scorsese with diminishing returns in films like The Cooler and Running Scared.

Georgia Lee
She apprenticed on Gangs of New York. And her Red Doors is just his kind of New York immigrant tale.

David Chase
Without GoodFellas, there is no such thing as The Sopranos.

Spike Lee
What Scorsese did for Italians, Lee’s done for African-Americans (who often run afoul of Italians). Next: The Influentials in Music

The Influentials: Movies