I interviewed producer Erica Huggins at her Radar Pictures office in Westwood September 27, 2002.
Erica grew up in Los Angeles and Michigan. She attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts.
Erica: "I made a film in school. I lived in asia. I decided that the only way I could make documentaries was to get into editing. [In 1987] I had a highschool friend who worked at Cannon Films. I got off the plane from college and my friend said Cannon was looking for apprentice editors. They hired me for $300 a week non-union. My first movie was Firewalker with Chuck Norris. I worked for an editor who was a drunk. Instead of giving us apprentice work, he'd just give us scenes to cut.
"I worked on Michael Cimino's The Sicilian. He fired me and hired me and fired me."
Luke: "What did you think of Nancy Griffin's recent article on Cimino?"
Erica: "It's probably all true."
Luke: "He's a bizarre character."
Erica: "He was turning into a bizarre character on The Sicilian. I always respected him because he was so smart about filmmaking. I didn't work on any good movies with him but he was so smart. He was challenging. He'd go through assistants like chewing gum. We connected. The editor I worked with, Françoise Bonnot, was a well-known French editor. She just needed somebody who would take care of Michael. He always wanted to come in to work with her. She wanted to be left alone to cut the movie. 'You play around in there.'
"I was then hired as an assistant editor on John Waters' Hairspray. My husband, my then boyfriend, was a huge fan of John Waters from the Polyester days. He knew all the characters in John's movies. I was more naive. I read Hairspray. I went off to Baltimore for six months [in 1988]. I met Janice Hampton, the film's editor. We worked together exclusively for the next six years. I went from being her assistant to being an editor. She took me under her wing and she became my mentor. She needed somebody and I was looking for somebody.
"We worked on this  movie, The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag, starring Penelope Ann Miller in an Allan Moyle movie for Disney. It was produced by the guys from Interscope - Scott Kroopf, Robert Cort and Ted Field. Janice had done some fixes for New Line on Allan Moyle's Pump Up The Volume, which was a big success. So Allan hired Janice and she hired me to be the second editor.
"Allan was not cut out for The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag. He hated the script. He didn't get along with the leading lady. It was a bad situation. We were in Oxford, Mississippi. The producers Scott and Robert were really smart. They understood what it was to edit a movie. They understood post-production. On all the movie I'd worked on, I'd never worked with a producer who understood that.
"Allan lost his mind on the movie. He would never come into the editing room. He was down the hall playing X-rated video games. Janice went off to cut another movie and I finished the movie with the producers. I formed a relationship wtih Scott and Robert. Interscope had just had a big hit with The Hand Rocks The Cradle . Interscope was closing a deal with Polygram and Robert needed to hire some people. He called me up one night [in 1992] and asked if I wanted to be a producer. I said 'Yeah!'
"We struck a deal. I was not going to be anybody's assistant. I wanted to make a lateral move if I was going to make a move at all. And he kept his word. The deal was that after three months, if it wasn't working, no harm, no foul [Erica could leave]. For the first three months, he'd give me half my salary, and an office and he would introduce me to everybody that he knew. And he would let me be in every meeting he was and go to every lunch he went to and be at every breakfast and be at every phone call, and he kept his word."
In 1997, Robert Cort left to form a company at Paramount. "I think it was time for us to move apart. At a certain point with a mentor, it's hard when you want to movie on. With Janice it wasn't easy, we didn't talk for ten years. We talked but it wasn't friendly. For the last five years, it was very unfriendly. She's working for me on a movie I just made this summer [How To Deal]. It's funny how it comes back around.
"Robert handed me a script called Boys [in 1994]. I worked with him to Winona Ryder and all of a suddenly we had a movie. He let me go off and produce it. I'd been on so many movies that he trusted that I knew how to tell a story. He believed that I was a storyteller from the back part of the movie, and that if I could tell it from that side, that I would be good at doing it from the beginning. It was horrible.
"The first few years were just miserable because I didn't have any contacts. I'd call agents and they had no idea who I was. I was so naive about how things worked. But I had Robert and he backed me up. Cut to I've been here ten years. Interscope became Radar and I'm partners with Scott [Kroopf] and Ted [Field].
"Gridlock'd  was the second movie I produced. It was Tupac Shakur's last movie. He and Tim Roth had a fantastic relationship. It was one of those movies where everyone had a great time making the movie, which is rare. Tupac was a total pro. Then you wake up the next morning and read about what he did the night before, after you wrapped, and he was out gangbanging with his friends and you think, who is this guy? How can he be such different people? He couldn't get out of the other life, even if he wanted to. [Tupac was murdered soon after.]
"What Dreams May Come was the biggest movie I've ever made. Director Vincent Ward had made Map of the Human Heart, a $17 million movie. Now all of a sudden he's making this $80 million movie. We won an Academy Award for it, the first that Interscope had ever won but it was just such a hard movie to make.
"Vincent was so insecure about the largesse of this movie and the actors that he had, like Robin Williams, it intimidated him. He shut down. Instead of dealing with all the people on the movie, he'd ask people questions in areas that weren't their specialty. He ended up getting half the information and it hurt the movie.
"I made that movie before I had kids. The movie's about two kids dying in the first ten minutes. I now wonder, what was I thinking? The movie should've been made for women in their 30s who had children but I don't think it was an easy movie for women to see. I wasn't experienced enough to know. I hadn't had the life lesson of knowing what it was like to have children.
"Then, the wife in the movie committed suicide. Then the hero of the movie went to heaven, and instead of looking for his children, he looked for his wife. It just doesn't make any sense.
"I can never forgive [fellow producer] Stephen Simon for the way he treated everybody. He's very metaphysical. Robert used to call him the mooney. They'd [Stephen Simon and his producing partner at the time, Barnet Bain] always had a cosmic explanation for why something wasn't working the way it should. Stephen had this horrible temper and he was just so nasty to people. He didn't live the life he espoused. It was an awkward relationship. He despised me. He just didn't think he needed me. Why can't we just go off and make our own movie? They were making an $80 million movie and I was there to produce the movie creatively for our company [Interscope] and watch the money for [distributor] Polygram."
Luke: "I was interviewing TV producer Rob Long last week and he said, I don't know why executives ever come on a set. There's nothing they can contribute."
Erica: "You can't. When you're put in that position, it's complicated. No matter what choice you make, it's going to hurt. If you make the financially sound choice, creatively you're in trouble. If you make the creative choice, it always ends up costing you. You can't be true to the movie. That was the one movie where I played both roles and it was not fun. It did not work. I was an executive at a studio, because Polygram was financing the movie, while I was creatively producing the movie for our company Interscope. Those two roles don't work together. They never have. Since then, we've just been producers on movies."
Luke: "Did you realize all along that you were in trouble with this movie?"
Erica: "From the first day of the scout, I knew there was a problem. We were in Montana in East Glacier National Park, the most beautiful location in the world. We were creating heaven. We had these amazing locations. We needed helicopters to get out... We had to build trees on cliffs. We painted flowers on hillsides.
"Vincent couldn't find a location for the first day of shooting - Robin wakes up in heaven and finds the dog. We're in the middle of this fabulous location and Vincent decides we're going to use the hill behind the hotel. You had to keep the camera down so you didn't see the hotel. He shot and shot and he didn't shoot any dialogue the first day. I remember Robin called me into his trailer and said, 'This is a debacle. What are we doing here?'
"I remember having a meeting with Vincent and he said, 'I am the director.' When you get a person who is so terrified that they have to shut everybody out... He didn't really have a producer. I was Interscope. Stephen and Barnett were keepers of the script, the book and the metaphysical angle. He didn't have anybody he could call at 2AM, when he was freaking out, that he could trust. I think that's the most important relationship you can have with your director. They can call you and be completely panicked and you are not going to panic. He didn't have anybody to confide in. Maybe he's not capable of trusting people. I didn't even know what he was thinking so I couldn't help him get what he wanted.
"Vincent stopped talking to Robin about his performance once we got to San Francisco. So Robin had nobody to talk to about his performance. After dailies, Robin would call me at 1AM to find out how it was. He needed some feedback.
"About a month ago, Robin had a good interview on NPR about One Hour Photo. He said being a [stand-up] performer and being an actor are two different things. Being a performer, you put yourself in front of the audience and it flows. Being an actor, you have to come up with a personality you're willing to become. It's harder to be an actor than a performer. When you're an actor, there's so much more you don't know.
"We hoped this movie would have the two things Robin was good at - humor and compassion. You couldn't get through the movie to even see if that was there.
"My colleague Scott Kroopf was close with Marsha, Robin's wife. The bonding against Vincent was unfortunate but we didn't want to lose our actor too. We couldn't get to Vincent. He wouldn't let us in.
"I haven't seen the movie since it came out. I have no idea about how I feel about it now. I just couldn't watch it anymore. It was such a disappointment. It deserved to win the Academy Award for digital effects. At the end of the day, I think that's what Vincent is most interested in - the artistic effects. It was an $80-million art movie."
Vincent Ward hasn't shot a movie since What Dreams May Come.
Luke: "I keep hearing from producers that once a director says action on a set, he's running the ship."
Erica: "That first night in Robin's trailer, there was an unspoken understanding that he would be ok with making a change. He felt insecure about the way Vincent was directing. But Michael Coon, who was head of Polygram at the time, wouldn't make a change. Nobody wanted to make a mutiny against Vincent. He just wouldn't let anybody in. It took me years to get over it.
"Then Polygram fell apart. We had just made Pitch Black, a big success, but not for Polygram because the company couldn't last. We didn't have a good run with Polygram. They expected us to do international movies and we were a company that historically done female-driven comedies. Robert [Cort] had a way of doing things that Michael Coon didn't understand.
"Now it's fun. Ted [Field] is our sugar daddy. We have a big library of material. We have a good track record. We are a family of people who have worked together for more than ten years. We made seven movies this year."