When many of us think of Robin Hood, we often conjure up cheeky images of characters parading around in tights and occasionally bursting into songs of merriment. And to be fair, that’s exactly the image Hollywood had about the legend of Robin Hood until a relatively new writer/producer by the name of John Watson and his writing partner, Pen Densham, wrote an entirely new take on the classic.
In their screenplay, Robin was a warrior of noble blood who comes back to a now highly corrupt England after being imprisoned during the Crusades.
Within weeks after shopping around their reimagined version, the reception was nothing short of remarkable. In fact, John found himself with not one, but two solid offers on the table, each with the power to forever alter his career.
“We really had two very different choices,” said John “Give up the script to a major studio for a mind-blowing amount of money. Or stay onboard as producers with a smaller studio with no guarantee the movie would even get made. It was an agonizing decision and potentially a lot of money left on the table.”
The fact that John was a struggling writer/producer with a young family made the choice that much harder. But in the end, his passion for producing forced him to go with his gut.
After saying goodbye to the suitcase full of cash, he and his producing partners chose to take the much riskier option with a smaller studio which would see them play a direct role in bringing the film to life.
That decision turned out to be the turning point that catapulted his fortunes forever. Once news about the project spread, a then red-hot Kevin Costner signed on as the lead. Then Morgan Freeman joined in as his co-star. And the biggest coup of all? Screen legend Sean Connery agreed to make a special cameo as the King at the end of the movie.
After it was all said and done, the little script that could became the second highest grossing film of 1991, earning $390 Million at the box office.
“That decision to produce the movie opened doors beyond imagination,” adds John. “After that my partner and I were perceived as the hot young producers in town. It was massive. It changed everything.”
What does all this tell us about strategy around similar tough calls?
John’s story is a great example of how we sometimes must look beyond the carrot dangling in front of us and instead keep focused on our longer-term goals and ambitions.
As John can attest, that’s not always easy, but the payoff can be life-changing.
To hear the full 20-minute episode “Making the Hollywood Blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, listen wherever you get your podcasts or online HERE.
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