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Todd Phillips: The New King Of Hollywood

Written by: FFT Webmaster | May 31st, 2011

Long live the new King of Hollywood…….writer/director/producer Todd Phillips has become one of the most influential film directors of the decade, with his latest THE HANGOVER PART II making history as the top-grossing live action comedy film ever produced. Since opening last Wednesday, in time for the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, the film has earned over $100 million…..in just four days!!!! For 40 year-old Todd Phillips, the sky is now the limit as he moves into a slate of new films that are a mix of comedy reliables and some dramatic oddities.

Phillips was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended New York University Film School, but dropped out in 1994 in order to focus on completing his first film, the feature-length documentary HATED: GG ALLIN AND THE MURDER JUNKIES, about the life and death of punk rocker GG Allin. Phillips made the film while a junior at NYU and it went on to become one of the biggest grossing student films at the time, even getting a limited theatrical release, as well as winning the Lumiere Award at the New Orleans Film Festival and playing the regional festival circuit. Around this time, he worked at Kim’s Video and Music, the infamous East Village video store that specialized in explicit material and hard to find films. During this time in the Big Apple, he also appeared as one of the taxi drivers in the first seasons of TAXICAB CONFESSIONS on Home Box Office (a gig he did to make ends meet while his career was revving up).

His sophomore film in 1998 was the documentary film FRAT HOUSE, about college fraternities that he produced and directed with then-partner Andrew Gurland. FRAT HOUSE premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature. His follow up film was the documentary BITTERSWEET MOTEL, a profile of the jam band Phish. It covered the band’s summer and fall 1997 tours, plus footage from their 1998 spring tour of Europe. The documentary ends at The Great Went, a giant two-day festival held in upstate Maine which attracted 70,000 people.

From the acclaim of these documentaries, Phillips was able to attract the attention of director/producer Ivan Reitman, who hired him to write and direct comedies for Reitman’s Montecito Picture Company. From this collaboration came the college road movie ROAD TRIP (2000) and the buddy comedy OLD SCHOOL (2003), which starred Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson. Phillips’ star in Hollywood continued to rise for his work on the 2004 remake STARSKY AND HUTCH, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, and the 2006 film SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder. In 2005, Details Magazine cited Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and Phillips as “The Frat Pack”. In 2006, he was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for the comedy hit BORAT, a project for which he was originally signed to direct but resigned due to creative differences.

In 2009, Phillips really hit pay dirt and mass acclaim with THE HANGOVER, which he wrote and directed. The buddy comedy, which starred the relative unknowns Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifanakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha, was made for a reported $35 million. The film went on to become the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time, with a worldwide gross of $480 million. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and Best Comedy at the 2009 Broadcast Film Critics Awards. Phillips took almost no up-front salary in exchange for a large share of the film’s profits, and has said that the movie’s enormous success combined with his deal, makes it “my Star Wars”. The success of THE HANGOVER made a sequel inevitable and the newest film looks poised to out-gross its predecessor (even if reviews have not been as glowing as the first film).

With his star now firmly imbedded in the Hollywood firmament, Phillips is turning his attention to mentor films from young directors. He has signed on to produce or executive produce a number of films to be released in the next two years, including STAYCATION, PSYCHO FUNKY CHIMP, THE CHADSTER, THE GOLDEN TUX, MAN-WITCH and PROJECT X, all with debut or young directors attached. His next writer/director project is MURRAY AT LARGE, an adventure comedy about a man who goes on the run to clear his name after he is falsely accused of an unspeakable crime. That film is slated to be released in 2013. Beginning as an independent filmmaker and documentarian, Todd Phillips is now one of the most bankable writer/directors in Hollywood, and at age 40, his career is still at its earliest stages. His professed desire to go beyond the comedy genre may mean that he will emerge as a credible and respectable director of dramatic fare in the future. Stay tuned……

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