David Geffen’s far-reaching influence – as agent, manager, record industry mogul, Hollywood and Broadway producer, and philanthropist – has helped shape American popular culture for the past four decades. Notoriously press and camera-shy, Geffen reveals himself for the first time in the new two-hour documentary American Masters Inventing David Geffen premiering nationally Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker, American Masters creator and executive producer Susan Lacy paints an unflinching portrait of Geffen, who narrates his unorthodox rise from working class Brooklyn boy to billionaire entertainment power broker in extensive interviews.
American Masters explores the highs and the lows in Geffen’s professional and personal life through more than 50 new interviews with his friends, colleagues and clients, as well as other media luminaries. Irving Azoff, Jackson Browne, Cher, David Crosby, Clive Davis, Barry Diller, Maureen Dowd, Rahm Emanuel, Nora Ephron, Tom Hanks, Don Henley, Arianna Huffington, Jimmy Iovine, Elton John, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Calvin Klein, Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Mike Nichols, Yoko Ono, Frank Rich, Slash, Steven Spielberg, Jann Wenner, Neil Young, and many others illustrate Geffen’s riveting story filled with extraordinary achievements.
“It has been my great privilege to enter David’s extraordinary world,” says Lacy, writer, director and producer of American Masters Inventing David Geffen. “It’s a world that touches every corner of the important, exciting artists and cultural explosions of my generation. Having David as a gracious and candid guide through this terrain was a wonderful personal experience and an absolute gift to any filmmaker.”
“I’ve always thought that each person invented himself…that we are each a figment of our own imagination. And some people have a greater ability to imagine than others.” -David Geffen
Starting out in the William Morris Agency mailroom in 1964, Geffen channeled his ambition by devoting himself to his work and perfecting the art of the deal. He launched the early successes of Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Tom Cruise in Risky Business (1983), and Guns N’ Roses through his companies Geffen/Roberts Management, Asylum Records, Geffen Records, and Geffen Pictures. In 1994 he co-founded DreamWorks SKG with Spielberg and Katzenberg, the first new Hollywood studio in more than 50 years, which went on to release Oscar-winning Best Pictures American Beauty (1999), Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), as well as animated features, including the Shrek franchise. Geffen also produced the Broadway musicals Cats (1982) and Dreamgirls (1981), and helped realize the Golden Globe-winning 2006 film adaptation. Witty and self-aware, Geffen admits, “I have no talent except for being able to enjoy and recognize it in others.”
A multi-millionaire by 1972 and a billionaire by 1995, Geffen’s financial success enabled him to become one of the earliest – and consistently one of the largest – contributors to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Through his philanthropic efforts and media heavyweight status, Geffen became an important political voice, first as an early supporter of Bill Clinton and later for Barack Obama, helping harness early support in the creative community during his first presidential campaign.
Notorious for his fierce loyalty, bluntness and chutzpah, Geffen has not avoided conflict or controversy. American Masters Inventing David Geffen addresses his fallings out with Laura Nyro, the Eagles, and the Clintons, his lawsuit against Neil Young, his unsuccessful stint at Warner Bros. Pictures, his whirlwind romance with Cher, and his struggles with cancer, homosexuality, and the AIDS-related deaths of his friends, including Michael Bennett. In 2010 Geffen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2011 he received the GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons President’s Merit Award.
Since its 1986 premiere, American Masters has earned 23 Emmy Awards – including Outstanding Non-Fiction Series eight times since 1999 – the 2012 Producers Guild Award, 12 Peabodys, an Oscar and three Grammys. Now in its 26th season, the series is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.
American Masters Inventing David Geffen is a production of THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET. Susan Lacy is writer, director, producer, American Masters series creator and executive producer. Jessica Levin is producer.
To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources
American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Jack Rudin, Vital Projects Fund, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Major funding for Inventing David Geffen was provided by the Ziff Family.
New York’s WNET is America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.
Information submitted by Senior Publicist Natasha Padilla
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