Meet Bill Mechanic: The man behind the movies


Meet the former head of 20th Century Fox, Bill Mechanic, as he talks smack about working with everyone from George Lucas to James Cameron.

Bill Mechanic is the common thread running through a string of Hollywood blockbusters: Independence Day, Fight Club, X-Men, Speed, Braveheart and Moulin Rouge (to name just a handful).

The former studio head of 20th Century Fox, he's a guy with stories and someone not afraid to share them - no matter which blockbuster director he might offend.

On Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Yes, the Emmy-nominee was in charge of Fox when what is arguably one of the most disappointing blockbusters ever hit cinemas.

It's a film that he says was, well, "not my favourite" either.

"Here's the real story: George (Lucas) called and said 'okay, do you want to see the movie?' And we get there and George says 'okay here's the rules: I'm going to show you the movie, we're going to have lunch afterwards and you're not allowed to talk about the movie'.

"Didn't want to heard from us. You're sitting there thinking I just saw a movie that's 20 minutes too long, I don't care about the Trade Wars, Jar Jar Binks is walking around like ... you know.

"He may be a genius and I may be an idiot, but I've made 200 movies and he's made five. Even an idiot learns something."

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On James Cameron and Titanic

Titanic was one of the biggest risks in movie-making history but it also became one of the biggest successes.

The road to global box-office domination and sweeping the Oscars, however, was not an easy one.

"My boss at the time didn't want to make the movie but he didn't want to piss off Jim (James Cameron)," says Bill.

"Jim is not an easy guy to deal with ... mean-spirited. You have to be ready to do bare-fisted boxing with him, you have to argue everything out.

"The picture was starting to run into trouble when I took over and everyone had put their head in the sand pretending there was no problem...

"We had a colossal fight, Jim and I, and he basically quite the movie. We shut down for all of about 12 hours - I didn't tell my bosses that I'd shut down a movie that was like $750,000 a day."

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On Mel Gibson's latest Hacksaw Ridge  

These days Bill works as a producer, in fact, he has just finished making Mel Gibson's latest Hacksaw Ridge which was shot here in Australia.

The film - which is set during World War II - is set to change the way people think about the former Lethal Weapon star.

"It's unfortunate, but I think this movie is going to put a lot of it behind him (Mel).

"There's a lot of different themes in the movie but one of them is bullying and forgiveness.

"I'm not condoning it, he was also drunk, he's 10 years sober... at some point get past it."

When it comes to opening day, even after decades in the movie business, Bill says that he still gets "seriously" nervous in the lead-up to a big release.  

"I'm not sleeping now, the worst thing that happened last night was we had a great screening and I got depressed because with Hacksaw Ridge it's still the little train that could.

"We're being out spent 3:1 by Doctor Strange in the US so trying to get the movie over the top to what it should be is a challenge."

Hacksaw Ridge
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