Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn, is no stranger when it comes to deciding which films will become blockbusters. During his time with Warner Bros., Horn discovered that big budget tentpoles lined the road to success.
And, it would seem he knows his stuff. 18 Disney titles have $1 billion or more at the global box office, 13 of which were released since Horn arrived in summer 2012
While Horn has many projects on his plate with Disney and Marvel both having full slates for the next few years, he sat down for a recent interview to talk about everything from the Disney-Fox merger, to what went wrong with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story.’
Read on for some highlights of the interview between Horn and The Hollywood Reporter.
What was your reaction when you learned of the Disney-Fox merger?
That Bob has managed to top even himself. To take over a major motion picture studio with a storied history and a hundred years of history is a very bold move. And the second reaction was, “OK, how do we assimilate this into one company and have it function productively, and how do we actually make this work in practice going forward?”
How does Disney’s push into streaming, with Disney+ coming this year, change your job?
The service will accommodate both film and television product, so each of the entities that is under my umbrella is charged with the challenge or responsibility of coming up with programming that can go directly to the service. I say to Sean Bailey, “I have good news. You can now make a McFarland, U.S.A. again.” That was an example of a wonderful movie that lost money. But this is the perfect vehicle for that kind of movie. Kathy Kennedy and Lucasfilm came up with the idea — it wasn’t mine — of an episodic Star Wars series called The Mandalorian, done by Jon Favreau. And the people at Disney Animation and Pixar are saying, “What can we do?” Everyone wears an additional hat now. Bob has said the service is now his No. 1 priority. Netflix and companies like Amazon represent the great disruption in our business and a seismic shift in consumer offerings and viewing patterns. The interesting thing, which is not resolved yet, is how big is the consumer appetite for these incremental services? I like our chances.
How many movies will the various labels make each year for the service?
The quality of the idea and the piece itself will drive whether we can make it or not. Sean may have three or four a year that he can contribute, and Marvel has a few things — we’re doing [a series] with Tom Hiddleston playing the Loki character.
Disney has a formidable 2019 slate, with ‘Avengers,’ ‘Lion King,’ ‘Frozen 2’ and ‘Episode IX.’ How do you manage expectations?
It’s always a challenge because — and I say this with love and respect for media — the thing about these big movies is they get a lot of attention, whether positive or negative. So when they don’t work, like Solo, the media says it’s a failure. I think it was a pretty good movie. It didn’t resonate as much as we’d hoped it would, but the press writes it up in a more negative way than I would. These are very high-profile movies. If Aladdin, which I happen to think is a terrific film, doesn’t work somehow, that’s big news and much bigger news than if a movie somewhere else, like The Kid Who Would Be King [at Fox,] doesn’t work.
Will ‘Episode IX’ get ‘Star Wars’ back on track?
I just got back from the United Kingdom, which is not so united. (Laughs.) I went to the set, and was with J.J. [Abrams], Kathy and the cast. I watched a couple of scenes being shot and then we all had dinner. I have not seen a cut of it yet, but I watch dailies every weekend and send J.J. and Kathy a note every weekend. It’s a big deal, and it’s going to be terrific.
What will the next ‘Star Wars’ movie be after ‘Episode IX?’
It’s all in discussion.
In 2018, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3’ director James Gunn was fired by Disney because of past tweets. Are studios now starting to police social media accounts before they hire someone?
I would say no. I don’t think we do extensive background checks to see what a person has said. I feel sad for some of the people ensnared in all of this. And sometimes I feel like, “Wow, what they said is so outrageous that it must have occurred to them that it would have repercussions.” It’s a very open world now, and this stuff is a matter of record. The admonition is: Be careful.
How do you unwind?
I have a screening room at home, and I love to sit and watch movies, four or five a week. It helps to see movies that we’re not involved with. I’ve had the same projectionist for 25 years now, Dorothy Apple. Close friends, family, my brother and my daughters will come over. I also like to exercise. I have a pretty elaborate gym in the house. In fact, I can’t do what I did 25 years ago, so I disguise my voice when I go in the gym because the weights don’t have eyes. They think that I’m still that guy who is ripped all the time. (Laughs.)
You’re 75. Any plans to retire?
At some point I have to.
For the full interview, head over the THR.