GIRL GONE WILD

FROM DOU­BLE UNI DROPOUT TO HOT PROP­ERTY WITH HOL­LY­WOOD STARS BEAT­ING DOWN HER DOOR, BRUNA PA­PAN­DREA TELLS US HOW SHE GOT FROM ADE­LAIDE TO L.A.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Monitoring - STORY MI­LANDA ROUT POR­TRAIT DO­MINIC LON­ER­A­GAN

Syd­ney Pol­lack was sit­ting in his of­fice in a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio lot, ex­pect­ing a visit from Bruna Pa­pan­drea. She was a broke 29-year-old Aus­tralian pro­ducer who had had to bor­row a $1000 off a friend to fly to Los An­ge­les to meet the leg­endary direc­tor about a job. The job would be her first proper pay­ing gig in the world of film. Talk about life im­i­tat­ing art — it was a mo­ment that al­most de­served its own dra­matic vi­o­lin score. “I lit­er­ally felt like I was in a movie,” Pa­pan­drea tells WISH of that life-chang­ing job in­ter­view with Pol­lack to run the Lon­don branch of his film pro­duc­tion com­pany. “Firstly, he has just made movies that I love, but even driv­ing on to the stu­dio lot, I had never done that, my only ex­pe­ri­ence of Hol­ly­wood was what you see in the movies, so it was pretty amaz­ing. I got back to Australia and got a phone call — I will never for­get that phone call for as long as I live — he said ‘we would like to of­fer you the job’. It was prob­a­bly $100,000 a year and I had never had a job, a pay­ing job, not a pay­ing job like that. Four weeks later, I was living in a dif­fer­ent coun­try, earn­ing a living and it was crazy. It was a big dream come true.”

Fif­teen years later and Pa­pan­drea is now mak­ing movies with actress and busi­ness part­ner Reese Wither­spoon. They have just been placed at 47 on the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter 2014 Women in En­ter­tain­ment Power 100 list af­ter the re­lease of their first two films, psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller and box of­fice smash Gone Girl and crit­i­cally ac­claimed Wild, which net­ted Wither­spoon and co-star Laura Dern Os­car nom­i­na­tions. Pa­pan­drea also reads scripts as favours for Naomi Watts and Ni­cole Kid­man, whom she counts as friends. So how did this girl from Ade­laide, a uni­ver­sity dropout at that, be­come one of the most in­flu­en­tial Aus­tralians in the film busi­ness?

As in all good sto­ries (and good movies), it is best to start at the be­gin­ning. Pa­pan­drea, the daugh­ter of an Ital­ian mother, grew up in the sub­urbs of Ade­laide and did pretty well at school but took a while to fig­ure out what to do next. “I am one of those peo­ple that al­ways be­lieved if you ex­pose your­self to dif­fer­ent things, it will be­come clear what you want to do,” she says. “I started a law de­gree at Mel­bourne Uni­ver­sity, and I lasted six months, and then I went to Ade­laide Uni­ver­sity, where I started study­ing lan­guages and lasted six months. I al­ways liked to write and I al­ways liked the theatre so I vol­un­teered in the theatre in Ade­laide and worked on a cou­ple of Ade­laide Fes­ti­vals. That was my en­trée to the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness.”

By age 21, she was on to her third city, hav­ing re­lo­cated to Syd­ney to work as an agent for pho­tog­ra­phers and make-up artists (she had al­ready moved on from as­pi­ra­tions to be­come a 60 Min­utes jour­nal­ist like Jana Wendt). It was there, through a play­wright, that she met a pro­ducer who made com­mer­cials. “My first start was as­sist­ing at a com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion com­pany. But within a year I was pro­duc­ing com­mer­cials,” she says, cit­ing Coca-Cola and KFC as clients. “I only did it for a year or two but it was a great way to re­alise I loved that world. I then went on to make a short film with a direc­tor I was work­ing with in com­mer­cials. It was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence and we made it with our own money. I think that is what gave me the bug.”

The first-full length movie she pro­duced was the Aus­tralian ro­man­tic com­edy Bet­ter Than Sex, with col­league Frank Cox, where she “lit­er­ally did ev­ery­thing” on the film in­clud­ing mak­ing the cur­tains for their of­fice in in­ner-city Syd­ney. Star­ring David Wen­ham and Susie Porter, it toured the film fes­ti­val cir­cuit, and that is how Pa­pan­drea met An­thony Minghella, the Os­car-win­ning Bri­tish direc­tor of The English Pa­tient and The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley. Minghella and Pol­lack had a pro­duc­tion com­pany to­gether called Mi­rage En­ter­prises and they were on the look­out for some­one to run their Lon­don of­fice. “I had only made one movie and he was meet­ing peo­ple who had years of ex­pe­ri­ence and had five-year busi­ness plans,” Pa­pan­drea re­calls. “I asked, years later, ‘Why did you pick me? I mean, thanks, but it was pretty shock­ing’, and he just said ‘I thought you were smart and I knew we would have fun’.”

Af­ter Minghella gave her the go-ahead, he told Pa­pan­drea “to go and meet Syd­ney Pol­lack in LA” and off she went with her bor­rowed air­fare to meet the Hol­ly­wood leg­end. “I think that was the op­por­tu­nity that gave me so many op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she says of her ca­reer break. “I was only 29 when it hap­pened. I was given an op­por­tu­nity with two amaz­ing film­mak­ers — that was the big­gest thing. I al­ways make jokes, be­cause I have worked with other peo­ple since then, that it is kind of im­pos­si­ble to work for some­one again if you have worked with two peo­ple like that be­cause the bar has been set so high. I don’t think I could work for any­one again and that is why I started my own com­pany.”

Pa­pan­drea spent five years at Mi­rage En­ter­prises in Lon­don, work­ing on movies like The Quiet Amer­i­can in Viet­nam, The No 1 Ladies De­tec­tive Agency in Africa and one of the last movies Pol­lack de­vel­oped be­fore he died, called Break­ing and En­ter­ing, which was shot in Bos­nia. “At a cer­tain point I knew I didn’t want to be in Lon­don any more. I knew it was about be­ing in Amer­ica,” Pa­pan­drea says of her de­ci­sion to leave, also cit­ing a

‘I al­ways be­lieved if you ex­pose your­self to dif­fer­ent things, it will be­come clear what you want to do,’ says Aus­tralian

film pro­ducer Bruna Pa­pan­drea

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