Richard Brener was raised in Short Hills, NJ, and currently serves as President of Production for New Line Cinema. He was the executive producer of some of the company’s most successful comedic projects, including Sex in the City (2008, 2010), Wedding Crashers (2005), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Hall Pass (2011), Horrible Bosses (2014, 2014), and Central Intelligence (2016).
Richard Brener is also a member of GIFF’s Executive Board. At the 2016 Festival, Brener joined some of his industry friends for the LOL: The Big Business of Comedy panel to discuss what it takes to deliver the ultimate laughs on the big screen.
This interview originally ran in the Official 2016 Festival Program.
Greenwich International Film Festival: You grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey. What was your favorite subject in school?
Richard Brener: American History. I had some great teachers and you just learn the same stuff over and over so it’s pretty easy. And it’s in English.
GIFF: You are the son of a very successful Doctor. Did you ever contemplate a career in medicine?
RB: Pretty quickly I decided it wasn’t for me. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I thought of things in terms of “that would make for a great scene in a movie” but the concept of working on them was completely foreign to me until I was picked to give a graduation day speech that had been done in previous years by some people who later went on to become entertainers of some form or another.
GIFF: How did you get your start in Hollywood? Were your first friends in Los Angeles collaborators later in your career?
RB: I came to Hollywood originally to write and fell into a temp job at New Line Cinema in 1995 and never left. Chris Bender was an assistant at the same time I was coming up and a close friend. He’s since had a producing deal with us at New Line for around 15 years and produced Vacation, We’re the Millers, and Horrible Bosses 2 among others with me and the company. One of my roommates when I was starting out was AJ Dix who worked in the mailroom and he and Chris and I did a couple movies together too. AJ now runs Charlize Theron’s production company.
GIFF: What is your favorite on-set memory?
RB: I think it was during Monster-in-Law reshoots. I pitched a scene where Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez get into a slap fight. Jane didn’t really get it, but said she’d do it anyway. Just the trust alone there would have been enough but after doing the scene, she came over to the monitor and watched the playback. She thanked me for “making” her do it because it worked so well and she now totally got it. Months later in a car on the way to the premiere, she brought it up again and thanked me again. It’s very rare for an actor to admit not getting something, agreeing to do it anyway, and then thanking you for it. And she actually got hit pretty hard and popped a blood vessel in her eye during that scene.
GIFF: What is the greatest piece of advice you ever received in Hollywood?
RB: I’m not sure if I was given this or learned it painfully over and over again but the problems in the script invariably become problems in the movie. Whatever isn’t working in the script, will not be fixed on the day in production and will be the first thing audiences reject.
GIFF: While your filmography has a strong leaning toward comedy, you have also executive produced a good number of horror films. What first drew you toward the horror genre?
RB: Horror and comedy are both pretty similar in that they both manipulate the audience and in screenings you know instantly what is and isn’t working. I love the instant feedback and I guess I trust that what I find funny or scary others do too.
GIFF: What is the best part of your job as President of Production at New Line Cinema?
RB: Expensing sushi. And getting to work with really talented people, who I occasionally eat sushi with.
GIFF: Is there a project from your past that you regret turning down?
RB: I started the ball rolling on what would eventually become The Hangover, inspired by when we lost a bachelor during his bachelor party weekend in Vegas. It’s a long story of how it didn’t work out at New Line, but my Dad likes to tell me it’s his favorite movie, even knowing how painful it was for me. He’s the best.
Richard Brener’s latest film, FIST FIGHT, hits theaters Febraury 17th. Watch the trailer below and don’t miss this film starring Ice Cube and Charlie Day.