When my company produced two pilots last season, many people assumed it was my introduction to television following my feature films, "Bullitt" and "The French Connection." While both shows dealt with crime, one ("Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside") focused directly on the police, while the other ("The French Connection") was only peripherally concerned. However, this quartet convinced some that I was an expert and a connoisseur on detectives, hoodlums, rape, narcotics and car chases.
Wrong about the TV bow; wrong about the cop culture.
In fact, my beginnings as a producer were about as diametrically opposed to my more recent endeavors as any two subjects could be. It might be difficult to imagine this Bronx boy setting his professional sights on Elizabeth Taylor, but set I did, and to my profound surprise she agreed. Thus was born "Elizabeth Taylor in London," followed by "Sophia Loren in Rome" and "Melina Mercouri in Greece." So, back in those not-so-long-ago-days, some people thought my forte was glamour.
That's about as valid as my love affair with the police force. Outside of my wife, the only love affair I'm engaged in is with New York. I joined "the rackets" because I wanted to make movies, and I acquired a property which seemed like a good start—"Bullitt." It was originally intended for Spencer Tracy but when he became too ill, it was rewritten for Steve McQueen who wouldn't film in New York but compromised on San Francisco. His fondness for cars and those incredible San Francisco streets formed a natural alliance for a chase—thus another minor myth emerged.
But the residents of Dubuque today are as "in" as their allegedly more sophisticated counterparts in New York and Los Angeles. The country has become homogenized and films have been forced to become more realistic. That's why I use many people who haven't acted before. These amateurs bring a tremendous vitality a more seasoned performer sometimes can't approximate.
Incidentally, I discovered my new "profession" contained several surprises. There were areas infinitely easier than I had suspected, others that were much more difficult than I had imagined. For example, the working relationships with the technical people were marvelously smooth and warm and relaxed. There was a great feeling of camaraderie and a genuine give-and-take, with no one taking more than giving.
On the other hand, I found that directing created a physical strain on the body, probably because it was such an all-out physical film. As the entire picture was shot on location in winter, there were none of the facilities a studio provides. It's a motion picture with a maximum of motion and I was forever crawling, creeping, running and sprawling.
Outside of my personal reasons for preferring New York as a workroom, its other advantages far outweigh the so-called comforts a studio provides.
For one, the actors. I feel that most New York actors are more "real" as people than those found elsewhere. It's the New York lifestyle and pace, which allows one to be generally more easily adaptable, more flexible, more resilient.
For another, the city itself. It's even "realer" than the actors. What might seem a liability or a detriment to some is an asset, virtually a necessity to me. The petty, incessant squabbles indulged in by the cabbies, the truckers, the bus drivers, the car drivers, the pedestrians, et al, are marvelous, and can't be duplicated anywhere either in volume or intensity. Crossing a street or waiting for an elevator can be an experience in itself in New York. One never knows what to expect and that's exciting—to me.
But being a born, bred, educated, married and residing New Yorker, I cheerfully headed here for "The French Connection." And stayed here for the TV shows and my newest film, "The Seven-Ups." In fact, all three were shooting simultaneously in the city last winter which led John Lindsay, then Mayor, to make a remark which I treasure. He called me "king of the Easterns," a title I would have no qualms about keeping.
Incidentally, I donned the director's cap as well for "The Seven-Ups" which probably made the 20th Century-Fox executives shaky as they insisted I include a car chase for what was, presumably, audience insurance.
Why would I take the additional responsibility for directing? The additional heartaches? The additional headaches? For maybe, just maybe, there might be additional kudos, but also the possibility of jeers. (There have been both.)
Because "The Seven-Ups" is in the same mold (a cops-and-robbers thriller) as my previous films, the familiarity of the genre gave me the confidence to pick up the director's megaphone. And, as the producer, I was on top of every aspect of the previous ventures, including the selection of much of the cast and technicians, a function generally designated to the director.
In fact, I am convinced that at least 50 percent of directing is in direct proportion to the casting. When an actor is on screen for one minute, his look has to be telling; his mannerisms, his voice, his inflections, even his grammar can reveal in those 60 seconds exactly who, what and why he is. It's true that the larger the role, the more the actor's talents have to be multi-faceted. But that look is important because of the mass media, TV in particular. Nowadays everyone know how real cops and judges and ball players and gangsters look and behave. Even a politician's true demeanor is exposed, as we all know too well.
An audience doesn't have to take everybody else's word for reality any longer. For example, years ago Hollywood decided a night sky is a blue sky for the simple reason it looked pretty and it was so accepted on screen.
There is absolutely no way of being insulated from the reality of the streets. An that's a turn-on.
We hope to do a feature film and two NBC-TV pilots a year with as much filming in New York as possible. Some projects, of course, do not require the use of the city—"The Exorcist," for instance, which was shot almost totally here. But it's my ideal, neuroses and all.
In a time of often hastily-conceived movies quickly made to fit increasingly lower budgets, Academy Award-winning producer Philip D'Antoni prefers to work in the tradition of the great filmmakers such as Irving Thalberg, Samuel Goldwyn, Darryl Zanuck, Hal Wallis and Ross Hunter, men who worked or work with care and deliberation to bring us some of the greatest pictures of all time.
Like them, D'Antoni puts his personal stamp on films to continue the tradition of the personal producer, a category in short supply even in the best of times.
D'Antoni hit the bull's eye with the very first motion picture he produced, "Bullitt" starring Steve McQueen, one of the top films of its genre with a look all its own. To date  it has grossed $75,000,000 worldwide.
He spent two-and-a-half years on "Bullitt" from the time he bought the property, developed the screenplay and saw it through to its highly successful completion which included the Oscar for film editing.
Then he spent two years on his second project, "The French Connection," for which D'Antoni, as part of his personal stamp, wrote the classic sequence involving an elevated subway train and an auto.
"The French Connection" not only won five Academy Awards—including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director—but also was the recipient of the Donatelli Award (Italy's Oscar), the Golden Globe Award (Foreign Correspondents and writers) and the Edgar (Mystery Writers Award). The thriller also has been a box office blockbuster around the world, with an expected theatre gross of $100,000,000.
The current D'Antoni motion picture project is 20th Century-Fox's "The Seven-Ups." In addition to his usual producing chores, he also directed the action melodrama.
This year also marked the rebirth of D'Antoni television activities in the form of creating and producing two film pilots through D'Antoni Television Productions—"Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside" for NBC-TV, and "The Connection" for ABC-TV.
D'Antoni was born on February 19, 1929, in New York City. Following service in the Army, he entered Fordham University under the G.I. bill. He took a job working days in the mail room at CBS-TV, switched to night classes at Fordham and subsequently received a degree in business administration.
Meanwhile at CBS he was promoted variously to the production, sales development, program analysis and market research departments. After four years with CBS he joined Mutual Broadcasting as sales manager, and was named executive vice president a year later.
But D'Antoni, always a creative man, decided he was getting too far away from his real interest in production. He formed an independent production company in 1962 and flew to London hopefully to convince Elizabeth Taylor, whom he had never met, to star on a television special. She agreed, and the result was the now famous "Elizabeth Taylor in London." He followed that with other specials of equal acclaim, "Sophia Loren in Rome," "Melina Mercouri in Greece," a "Jack Jones Special" and "This Proud Land" with Robert Preston.
After several years as one of television's most successful independent producers, D'Antoni turned to the motion picture field and his initial venture, "Bullitt."
With an expanded schedule now in both theatrical and TV films, the new Philip D'Antoni Productions recently named Barry Weitz as Executive Vice President and Ken Utt as Vice President in charge of Production.
D'Antoni and his wife, Ruth, are the parents of five children. They reside in New City, Rockland County, New York.
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