Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Edward Pressman

Edward R. Pressman, Toronto, Sept. 1990

I BEGAN MY CAREER AS A PHOTOGRAPHER SHOOTING MUSICIANS but when I started shooting full time my subjects gradually became dominated by movie people. It was actors and directors, mostly, but at the turn of the '90s I had a rare shoot with a movie producer - a one-off subject that would rarely be repeated considering how far Toronto is from Hollywood.

Ed Pressman wasn't just any movie producer; unlike the mostly anonymous executives who greenlight projects and mint new stars, he's a name brand, part of a rare breed that goes back to golden age moguls like Darryl F. Zanuck and David Selznick and continues with Pressman peers like Harvey Weinstein and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Edward R. Pressman, Toronto, Sept. 1990

The son of a New York toy manufacturer, Pressman began his career at the turn of the '70s with a trio of counterculture films before launching the careers of directors Brian De Palma and Terence Malick. He's been involved with a wild variety of films, but has tended to concentrate on quirky directors and challenging material that hovered on the hazy, erratic border between art house pics and Oscar bait - films like Badlands, Das Boot, Talk Radio, Blue Steel, Homicide, Bad Lieutenant, American Psycho, Fur and Thank You For Smoking.

Along the way he's had big hits (Wall Street,) made some genre popcorn flicks (Conan the Barbarian, Judge Dredd) and had his name on some really oddball stuff (The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Hebrew Hammer, Party Monster.) One thing you can't say is that he's made a career out of anything safe or formulaic.

I shot him when he was at the film festival, probably while promoting Reversal of Fortune, Barbet Schroeder's film about the Claus von Bulow attempted murder case starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close. It's typical of the sort of film Pressman has made, and the sort of directors he's loyally supported despite controversy - people like De Palma, Oliver Stone, James Toback and Mary Harron.

Edward R. Pressman, Toronto, Sept. 1990

I know I photographed Pressman at the (now-defunct) Sutton Place Hotel thanks to the tapestry I chose as a backdrop - one that I'd used in a shoot a year earlier with Sam Rivers. I'd brought along my new Rolleiflex and a flash, which I bounced into an umbrella high and to the side to get as dramatic a light as possible. This was probably when my "tapestry phase" began in earnest - one that would reach its peak with my portraits of Tilda Swinton two years later, in front of another antique tapestry hanging in the halls of the Sutton Place.

He had a boyish uniform - baseball cap, seersucker jacket, chinos, deck shoes and argyle socks - that he wore with the authority of a man comfortable with no small amount of power or access to money. I wanted him to look stern since movie producers aren't known for their whimsy.

For the bottom frame, however, I asked him to sit back down on the velvet couch where I'd met him, clearly at work with a notebook and sheets of paperwork. Today a man like Pressman would likely have a phone and a laptop on either side of him, but this was the turn of the '90s and mobile phones were both brick-like and dweeby, and laptops rare and largely unusable before the internet. He looks pensive, even reflective, and I doubt if this would have been the shot I'd have printed for my client, though I like it a lot now. No one has seen these shots in over twenty-five years.


No comments:

Post a Comment