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Michael Mendelsohn Talks God Is a Bullet and Being Hollywood’s Money Guy

May 12, 2023


Having been involved in the film industry since the late-80s, Michael Mendelsohn knows first-hand just how hard it is to make a movie. Indeed, Mendelsohn has been producing and financing movies under his company, Patriot Pictures, since 2005, with 2022’s Blackout (starring Josh Duhamel and Abbie Cornish) and 2021’s Nicolas Cage-led Prisoners of the Ghostland being a couple of his most recent projects. Up next is God Is a Bullet from director Nick Cassavetes. However, not unlike anyone who finds themselves on a Hollywood movie set, it was a long, winding road for Mendelsohn to get to where he is today — and it started in Johnny Carson’s mailroom on The Tonight Show.
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“I was dealing the mail for everyone from John Travolta to Bill Cosby to Cheap Trick, Foreigner, and David Letterman,” Mendelsohn said in our Zoom interview. In addition to working in the mailroom, there were instances when he would also drive Carson to the studio and back, during which the Tonight Show host would read his jokes to Mendelsohn and ask for his honest opinion. Mendelsohn was 17 years old at the time, and though it may have likely started off as an innocuous part-time job, it would eventually provide him with a pivotal creative opportunity.

Because of his honesty about Carson’s jokes, Mendelsohn was eventually tasked with making the “Christmas movie” for the office party at Johnny Carson Productions, which involved putting together 40 minutes of clips from the show and cutting them down to 20 with an editor. “What I’d done was put all the mistakes Johnny Carson made, like when he tripped and fell, when the monkey scratches his face, when there’s a wardrobe malfunction — I put together 20 minutes of bloops and blunders. And that’s the first experience I had making something entertaining.”

On Being a Money Guy in Hollywood

Patriot PicturesDaniel Daza

Interestingly, Mendelsohn’s next stop was the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course, he made roots in the arts, studying English and Russian literature as well. Shortly after graduating, Mendelsohn ended up at Union Bank, which may initially seem like a major detour for someone who had set his sights on making movies, but it was a necessary step. “In development, most people can’t say, ‘Yes, I’ll make the movie.’ They’ll say, ‘No, you can’t make it,'” he said. “There’s only one guy in the whole system that can greenlight the movie, so I decided, if I’m going to get more movies made, I gotta get my hands on the cash.”

A handful of years at Union Bank turned into a decade at BNP Paribas before Mendelsohn founded Union Patriot Capital Inc. in July 2000 and, finally, Patriot Pictures a few months after that. You might not know it, but, throughout it all, he has arranged the financing for many hits like The Wachowskis’ The Matrix, Quentin Tarantino’s breakout hit Reservoir Dogs, and the Nancy Meyers film What Women Want.

Related: God Is a Bullet Trailer Shows Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Maika Monroe Uniting Against a Violent Cult

“Rather than viewing it as a transition, I view it as more of an addition, combining financing and packaging of talent and projects — the essential elements of film making,” said Mendelsohn, when asked how he went from financing to producing. He continued:

“Our companies manage a large fund designed to provide production financing to producers and directors, foreign sales companies, talent agencies, and their talent. In the process, the fund owns the IP, the remake and sequel rights, and the ability to license sales in different territories in perpetuity. This creates additional revenue through future sales cycles. By combining financing and packaging of film production elements, we get to work with a much greater variety of projects that need financing.”

God Is a Bullet Was 18-Plus Years in the Making

Up next for Mendelsohn is God Is a Bullet. “I financed it myself [with] my partner, who is a private equity guy out of New York,” said Mendelsohn. The film has been a two-decade-long passion project for Cassavetes. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maika Monroe, Jamie Foxx, and January Jones, the film is based on the book of the same name by Boston Teran. One night, a violent cult murders Vice detective Bob Hightower’s (Coster-Waldau) ex-wife and kidnaps his daughter. Desperate and increasingly frustrated with those in charge of the investigation (which is failing at every turn), Bob quits the force and aims to gain access into the cult to find his daughter and those responsible for her kidnapping on his own. To do this, he enlists the help of the cult’s sole escapee, Case Hardin (Monroe).

“As a cinema-goer and, I think, an authority of many movies, I don’t know if, politically in this environment, Martin Scorsese would have been able to make Taxi Driver. I don’t know if Brian De Palma and Al Pacino could have made Scarface,” said Mendelsohn, referencing how “very violent and edgy” both classics are. It’s a pertinent observation considering how similarly unflinching God Is a Bullet is in its depiction of violence, rape, satanic cults, and substance abuse.

Related: God Is a Bullet Cast: Other Roles You’ve Seen the Actors Play

It’s certainly not a film for the faint of heart, which, in terms of risk assessment and the limitations it poses on potential viewership, is a topic that comes up in our conversation. In fact, Mendelsohn likened filming God Is a Bullet in Mexico — at the height of COVID-19 with crews of 100-plus people, traveling in the heat and rain, encountering snakes and scorpions, all while not knowing the exact tone Cassavetes had in his mind — to Apocalypse Now’s infamously hellish shoot. However, above it all, he maintains that Patriot Pictures is a “director-driven filmmaking company,” so there was no question about supporting Cassavetes’ full vision.

“He’s been trying to make that movie for over 18 years. And many times, you’ll find in our company directors who come to us with material that they’ve wanted to do for 10, 20 years that nobody was willing to take a chance on.”

God Is a Bullet will release in theaters June 23, followed by a digital release on July 11.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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