Hollywood Producer speaks of his own 'Risky Business'

The Daily Pennsylvanian
October 6, 1998)

Hollywood Producer speaks of his own Risky Business

Hollywood Producer speaks of his own "Risky Business"

Photo by Jaques-Jean Tiziou/The Daily Pennsylvanian

Jon Avnet, who has directed or produced many popular movies of the 1980s and 1990s, visited the University last Friday to discuss his career and his experiences in Hollywood. Avnet who directed movies like Up Close and Personal and Fried Green Tomatoes, spoke to more than 25 students at the Kelly Writers House as part of the student-run Talking Film Program, which helps coordinate meetings between Penn students and professional screenwriters.

The lecture marked a homecoming for Avnet, 48, who attended the University in the late 1960s. Avnet's daughter, Alexandra, is currently a College freshman. Avnet's first break came when the American Film Institute granted him a fellowship. This was followed, he said, by several challenges and setbacks. But with the success of the Tom Cruise-vehicle 1983's Risky Business, starring Tom Cruise, Avnet quickly gained a reputation as an up-and-coming producer in the film community. Avnet has also produced children's movies, like all three installments in The Mighty Ducks series and 1993's Disney version of The Three Musketeers. "As a father, I love producing children's movies. They are a lot of fun to make," he said. Avnet also discussed one of his more recent films, Red Corner. The film, a legal thriller set in modern China and starring Richard Gere, received mixed reviews and sparked controversy when the Chinese government objected to its harsh portrayal in the film. It was a box-office dud. "I think the movie was hurt by its release date of Halloween. That's a very tough weekend for movies," he said.

Avnet's remarks were followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session, which gave interested students the opportunity to ask him specific questions about his movies and career. Several students interested in pursuing a career in entertainment said they enjoyed the speech. "I found him very interesting. I'm considering a career in TV or film, so I greatly appreciated this opportunity," said College junior Chris Stephan-Jones. Avnet's visit was the first event in this Talking Film program this year. "Our hope is that the series will give interested students a way to make contact with people successful in their fields," said Writers House Director Kerry Sherin. Writers House Faculty Adviser Al Filreis added that the house's goal "is to create a space that is friendly and conducive for creative students." "The Talking Film Program helps us reach this goal," the English professor said. Avnet's current plans include the movie The Real Inspector Gadget, starring Matthew Broderick in a live-action version of the popular cartoon. Avnet had some simple parting words of advice for Penn students. "Rejection makes a person stronger. With a little persistence, anything is possible," he said.