Mr. Hollywood Florida

With a little smoke, a few mirrors, and an ego big enough to reach California, Craig Marquardo wants to build his own movie-making empire in South Florida

Besides, Peel argues, Florida will never be Hollywood, and commercials and music videos, especially those aimed at a growing Latin market, are probably the wave of the future here.

Faced with that unsettling notion and waiting impatiently for calls from Seagal's company on a recent afternoon, Marquardo can't keep his hands off the telephone. He grabs it suddenly and begins punching numbers again. This time he calls the governor's office in Tallahassee. Demanding to speak to the governor or a senior aide, Marquardo is put on hold. Finally a receptionist tells him nobody is available and hangs up on him.

The young president of Fathom doesn't have long to fume about the snub, because the telephone rings with a call from California. Marquardo turns on the speakerphone. On the other end of the line is Goldfine.

Dealmaker Craig Marquardo runs Fathom Motion Pictures from unpretentious offices in Hollywood, Florida
Joshua Prezant
Dealmaker Craig Marquardo runs Fathom Motion Pictures from unpretentious offices in Hollywood, Florida

Goldfine gets right down to business -- he proposes what he calls a "sweetheart deal." Seagal will agree to do Wild Game if Marquardo will agree to a pay or play of only $500,000 -- much less than the original $7 million demand. Marquardo dispenses with the pleasantries and cuts off Goldfine brusquely.

"Phil, shut up a minute. In the conference call [with Seagal] we made it way clear we were not willing to do a pay or play, and Steven was still willing to put together a letter of intent."

Goldfine replies that he just got off the phone with Seagal, who says "as of today he wants pay or play, or out."

Marquardo: "I'm not going to kiss his ass or acquiesce -- this is business, not art. I'm going to take a hit on this with Disney [the tentative distributor] if things go bad."

Marquardo says he tried to recruit Disney, an A list distributor whose support is an almost-sure guarantee of money, by announcing that Seagal may play the lead. His reputation is at stake, he says.

Although Goldfine protests, Marquardo brushes him off and hangs up.

"It doesn't look good," he admits. "Somebody's fucking around -- it's either [Goldfine] or Steven."

And indeed it isn't good, because a day later the deal falls apart. Marquardo decides to move on. He mails a script to Richard Gere's agent the next day.The broken deal with Seagal is one of many that occur in this business, Marquardo says. But another phone call later in the day will ease the sting.

Marquardo says his investors are particularly interested in a film to be called The Horseman, for which Kevin Costner might be well suited, in spite of the ominous title that recalls his flop The Postman.

"He's still got great cachet here and in Europe," Marquardo says, "and that means we'd have no problem finding distributors."

Eyeing his big board, Marquardo waits while the phone rings at the office of J.J. Harris, an agent for Costner. A male voice answers it with one word: Hello. Marquardo explains quickly who he is, says he's calling for Harris to talk about a script, and asks to speak to her.

"Who did you say you were?" the voice inquires.

"Marquardo, Fathom Pictures."

"Hold on," says the voice. Then it comes back on the line. "She's busy at the moment, maybe I could help. What was it you wanted?"

Marquardo briefly explains. He's a producer who has tentative financing for a film Costner might be interested in. He praises Costner, briefly describes the story -- some hotshot pilots are hired by a small country to train its air force and end up defending it themselves against a tyrant -- and says it would be perfect for the actor.

"Well, sure, I think he'd be interested in taking a look," says the voice.

Marquardo's expression suddenly shifts from thin-lipped impatience to smiling recognition. The voice is clear to him suddenly, a voice hard to distinguish in low tones at first over the speakerphone.

"Wait a minute," he says in a rare moment of surprise, "how do you know?"

"Because you're speaking to him," says Costner. "This is Costner."

"You're pulling my leg," replies Marquardo, momentarily at a loss.

Costner explains that he was waiting in the office for a meeting and just happened to pick up the phone, sort of kidding around. The two talk quickly about baseball films -- Marquardo praises Costner for "making the best films about baseball," a reference to Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and For Love of the Game -- and Costner says he's heard about Marquardo as a former ball player.

"You couldn't have," says Marquardo, "you'd have to have been in Boston for about 15 minutes ten years ago and known everybody they looked at."

No, says Costner, he's heard about Marquardo in California as "that producer who once played ball."

The actor agrees to look at the script for The Horseman and asks when he can see it. "In about two minutes," says Marquardo, and makes good on his word. Fortuitously he has already mailed a copy of the script to the agent, who has it in her office.

Moments later Marquardo is talking to the agent's assistant, asking her to hand the script to Costner. Which apparently she does.

Marquardo hangs up, glowing. "All right," he says, "all right. We can do this."

For his little project, his company, it's been a very big day.

Related Links:
Florida Film Commission

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