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On his desk, as spare and plain as everything else about this would-be Hollywood mogul, is a baseball, mounted on a small wooden stand. Marquardo's story about the trophy, with a single scuff mark on its surface, is that he hurled the ball "the first time I ever threw in the majors," during spring training with the Sox.
Possibly he threw the same ball for the last time, too, since a press spokesman for the Red Sox in Boston can find no record of Marquardo in any team roster dating from a decade ago. Neither is his name listed in Yankee records or records of the Tucson Sidewinders, then an Astros farm team, now in the Diamondbacks system. He might have been cut or traded quickly and the records lost, say the spokesmen for those teams.
That's what happened, says Marquardo, who can point to pictures on his wall showing him in younger trim on a green diamond wearing a Red Sox uniform, surrounded by a couple of players.
"What I got out of it was some contacts, some rich guys who liked me, and they invested in films." He says those investors got him started in the industry before he was 20 years old. Like much else about Marquardo, that's hard to check: He says the investors require anonymity.
In spite of his youth, Marquardo came equipped with experience when he opened Fathom last fall. He proved a capable distribution agent during his brief time with Warner Brothers, which hired him as a freelance distributor of films in the U.S. and abroad, according to Barry Reardon, a retired Warner Brothers executive.
"He was aggressive, persistent, brilliant, and a pain in the ass, all of which I admire," says Reardon, who offered the comments at Marquardo's request in an e-mail reply. Reardon could not be reached through Warner Brothers or at his Palm Beach County home to verify the comments.
Marquardo also succeeded as an independent middleman who could get on the telephone and round up investors willing to pump dollars into hemorrhaging film budgets on big productions. Among the list of films he claims to have helped finance: Die Hard II with Bruce Willis, End of Days with Arnold Shwarzenegger, Deep Blue Seawith Samuel L. Jackson, and Stepmom with Julia Roberts.
Here's how he describes his work: A studio goes over budget or faces a sudden need for cash and wishes to keep that fact hidden, so it calls a money-raiser, a "fixer." He signs a secrecy clause agreeing to discuss nothing about his involvement and brings in investors. "For the films I did that way," says Marquardo, "I could make in the six figures. I had a lot of money when I was very young, then I lost some of it, then I regained some of it. Now I sock it away, and I don't live a lavish lifestyle, because I want to retire in my thirties."
Marquardo says he cannot talk about his specific role in financing past films without violating his agreements with the studios who hired him, a position confirmed by a studio executive in Hollywood who did not want to be identified but said he is familiar with Marquardo's help in five feature projects.
Although Marquardo's investors include "about 40 percent Germans right now" and the rest Californians, he refuses to name them. To do that, he says, would result in the investors receiving unwanted and countless solicitations from a world of people eager to make films.
Marquardo's difficult-to-confirm account of his experience isn't uncommon in the film business, says Steve Jones, a reputable Hollywood feature-film producer of such movies as Wild Things, a Sony production starring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, and Denise Richards and filmed partly in Broward County.
Jones, who is planning several movies with Marquardo, says the names of such finance freelancers never appear in film credits because studios aren't eager to advertise expensive problems they failed to anticipate. To check Marquardo out, Jones talked with people in Hollywood who believe the young businessman can probably put money together for a project.
"But you know, this stuff is hard to confirm because the studios don't talk about these kinds of dealmakers, and investors aren't usually eager to have their names exposed, either," he says, chuckling. "So people can put this on their résumés whether it's true or not. And I don't care what kinds of stories the guy tells about himself as long as he can do what he says," which is put the money together and guarantee distribution.
Jones aims to direct feature-length dramatic productions, and says of Marquardo, "I think he can help me." He's listed as the producer of three of the evolving projects on Marquardo's big board. And his name appears as both producer and director of a fourth, known as Midlife.
Producer Gregory Alosio, whose company, Alosio Productions, is based in L.A, and Cody Ruimy, an L.A.-based distributor and owner of THF Pictures, share Jones' assessment of Marquardo as a capable enigma.
Ruimy's company holds letters signed by Marquardo saying he has the right to produce a couple of films, "which is what they do when they're legitimate," Ruimy says of executive producers. "When they aren't legitimate, they don't sign anything because the legal consequences can be bad."