Despite their young age, David Ellison (28) and Megan Ellison (25), the children of Oracle co-founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, have become two of Hollywood’s biggest power broker producers. The elder son founded Skydance Productions five years ago, but its first project out of the hopper FLYBOYS was a box office flop.
The producer, at age 23, co-financed the MGM film and also starred in the lead role as a pilot. The film had a $60 million production budget and grossed $20 million worldwide.
However, when he and his sister Megan, who founded her own production shingle named Annapurna Productions, joined forces to produce the Coen Brothers’ TRUE GRIT, they both tasted box office success. Now they are separately funding some of Hollywood’s most intriguing new projects.
Skydance Productions has pacted with Paramount Pictures to produce two big budget actioners: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE—GHOST PROTOCOL with Tom Cruise returning in the lead role; and WORLD WAR Z, a futuristic thriller to star Brad Pitt. Other Skydance projects in development include an untitled disaster project by THOR writers Zack Stentz and Ashley Miller. Skydance is working with a $400 million production war chest, which is catnip in these days when financing sources have dried up.
His sister Megan is taking a more indie track. First projects from Annapurna Productions have included the modestly budgeted indie films WAKING MADISON, MAIN STREET and PASSION PLAY. None ignited the theatrical box office but the success of TRUE GRIT last year has ratcheted her cred considerably. Annapurna is now funding the latest films from such quirky auteurs as Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Douglas Wick and Kathryn Bigelow. The first to be released will be THE WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD, directed by John Hillcoat with a screenplay by Nick Cave and starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce. The Weinstein Company will release the film later this year.
The company is also funding Spike Jonze’s new project with Charlie Kaufman. The plot of the first collaboration between the filmmakers since ADAPTATION is being kept under wraps and no distributor is yet attached, but you can be sure that this is on the radar of many companies. In addition, Annapurna is also financing for Columbia Pictures a thriller about the Navy SEALs who found and killed Osama bin Laden. The movie is directed and produced by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, the team behind the Oscar winning THE HURT LOCKER. The company is also getting behind THE MASTER, the newest film from Paul Thomas Anderson, a 1950s period piece about a charismatic intellectual who builds a faith-based movement in the United States, that is said to be a veiled story on the Church of Scientology. As if that is not enough, the company is also on board with COGAN’S TRADE, to star Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, with writing and directing by Andrew Dominik, who also wrote and directed Pitt’s earlier film THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. The company also recently outbid many Hollywood heavyweights, paying an estimated $20 million for the rights for a re-make of THE TERMINATOR, which will go into production next year.
At a time when Hollywood is desperate for new sources of production financing, the Ellisons can wield their cash as leverage in a time of scarcity. Their father Larry Ellison, the co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corp., is the world’s fifth-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $40 billion, according to Forbes. That kind of money can make many films come to light and make instant superstar producers of the twenty-something siblings.