Ovidio Assonitis has worked with mega film stars such as Al Pacino and James Cameron. Among films he’s worked on include “Scent Of A Woman” and “Beyond The Door”. Speaking at an event at the Great Northern Creative Festival, the tycoon details his journey from a small time film distributor to a multi award winning film producer.
Born in Egypt, raised in Italy with Greek parents, it’s fair to say Ovidio Assonitis is truly an international film producer but a very successful operator in such a saturated field who unsurprisingly speaks four languages.
Back in 1974, his film “Beyond The Door” at the time was the highest grossing independent film. It’s no small feat taking into consideration that at the time, Ovidio had only been in film production for a mere two years. Such major feats early on ultimately paved the way to a highly illustrious career.
He’s got an impressive roster to show off too. Just to name only a couple, he has worked with the likes of Al Pacino and James Cameron.
Ovidio’s career in film began in the 1960’s, but albeit in a slightly different area. He started a distribution company in South East Asia, with multiple offices in locations such as South Korea and Bangkok. His partners included the brother of the King of Thailand.
This venture was going well but his desire lead him to go into film production.
He fondly visualises the distant past and draws a distinction between film production and distribution. “I had the chance to see the meaning behind the pictures distributed”.
It’s not all been glitz and glamour on the way, his most impactful movie to date, “Scent Of A Woman”, was testament to his relentless drive and determination was tested to the limits.
In Ovidio’s eyes, the film would be a success. So, he went along a bought the rights to it. However, it was only he who saw potential in the idea. The supposed crew who were in place to work on his next film disagreed.
He said: “One day they would say yes we can do this and then the next, they would revert back to no it won’t work”.
He spent a whopping 10 years to convince people it would be a good movie to produce. Yes, 10 years. He also realised the need for a star to lead, he aimed for the cream of the crop and by God did it work. Jack Nicholson was heavily interested in playing the main role but was already tied up into a contract.
So, Ovidio just went and casually landed an actor called Al Pacino to play the role. He candidly describes him as “a nice but strange guy”. The movie proved to be a hit, generating £130 million worldwide and holds an impressive 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.
He also takes pride in discovering and promoting young talent, somehow, he convinced the prolific movie star Chuck Norris to make a transition to television. This resulted in Norris starring in Walker Texas Ranger, an iconic TV series adored by households worldwide. It also can’t be forgotten he gave Al Pacino his big break in the previously mentioned “Scent Of A Woman”.
Ovidio is also not afraid of making executive decisions. He notoriously fell out with the world renowned film director James Cameron. He says of the relationship that they “never really got on from the first day”. This culminated in firing Cameron after just one week of shooting on Piranha’s 2. He admitted that Cameron had a great vision and all the elements of being a great.
The famed producer is also not afraid to turn future stars away. Among a varied list, he declined Sharon Stone a role in a movie. She went on to a very successful career, starring in films such as Total Recall and Casino.
When it comes to giving advice to aspiring film producers, his passion for the field evidently comes across. He venomously reminds the audience “you need to have passion, it’s a difficult job. You are not selling goods, you are selling dreams”. He also explained why he works in such a competitive field: “You do it to communicate to the world your dreams and to express yourself. It’s an addiction.”
Words by Issan Khan