Hollywood is famous for making all things marketed through Tinsel Town appear magical and hopeful, destined to be spotlighted on the big screen, just as stars are said to be “born.” But, anyone involved in filmmaking knows how cutthroat the business behind film can be and just how difficult it is to make it to the “big time” in the highly competitive field of movie production. Very few individuals become known as superstars behind the scenes, as revolving doors tend to keep executives coming and going. A few – such as Cecil B. DeMille and Darryl Zanuck – make it to the top and endure there, while others are shifted from studio to studio and eventually off the lots, altogether.
One business superstar trailing not far behind the legends of DeMille and Zanuck, but perhaps lesser known outside of Los Angeles, is Tom Rothman. Called “The Blockbuster” by Columbia Law School Magazine, Rothman did not set off on a charted course for Hollywood heroism. His proverbial career ship just kind of landed there. Perhaps it is not intent and sheer determination that keep Rothman on top in this very challenging place. Maybe it is luck and waves of Fate that help the former schoolteacher, lacrosse player, varsity soccer coach, law clerk and attorney maintain his status as “power player” for major movie brands. Yes, maybe he was born to be a star.
For the first ten years of his career post-graduation from Brown University, Thomas held varied positions on his path from teacher to attorney. Six years after graduating from Columbia Law School and while a partner at a law firm in New York in 1986, he was offered a role as producer at Columbia Pictures. The 32 year old lawyer decided he should seize the moment and give Hollywood a try.
Only a year after hitting Tinsel Town, Rothman was Executive Vice President of Columbia Pictures. In 1989, he became President of Worldwide Production for Samuel Goldwyn Company. In 1994, Thomas landed at Fox Filmed Entertainment, where he remained and climbed the corporate ladder to the top for the next 18 years. From 2000 to 2012, he was at the very pinnacle of that ladder, as Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, which includes 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Blue Sky Animation, and Twentieth Century Fox Television. Far from being finished with the dazzling lights and sound stages of the world’s moving picture capitol, Tom Rothman was named Chairman of TriStar Productions in a joint venture with Sony Pictures in early 2013.
What the future holds for Tom Rothman at TriStar remains to be seen. What can be derived from his story of success is that, while some plan their careers from childhood, others are just destined to be on a certain path. It seems, that no matter which direction Rothman pursued earlier in his career, Hollywood was his eventual fate. What he has done to ensure success within that fate is almost unprecedented. He has seized opportunities as they have arisen, achieved accolades for his performance and continues to build his behind-the-scenes legacy, to this day.
According to IndieWire, one of Rothman’s next projects is a film with Meryl Streep and Robert Zemeckis behind the camera. This will be an interesting project and will help to us know what’s in store.