In Hollywood, there’s a certain pecking order and hierarchy to how things work. At the very top of the ladder are the big studio heads and decision makers who actually greenlight projects and conversely have the power to stall projects as well. Next, we have the big production companies who oversee and execute the making of films. Then scattered on the power and influence grid are the star agents, top-tier actors, entertainment lawyers, publicists, managers, writers, directors etc. Needless to say, there are a lot of moving parts to the Hollywood machinery. A quick way to summarize the lay of the land is that the people with the most money and clout are at the very top and everyone else falls in place accordingly. With this structure in place, it’s no surprise that Tinseltown actors have taken to creating their own movie production companies so they don’t have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get their films made. Here are a couple of those actors with their own production outfits.
10. George Clooney – SmokeHouse Productions
In the present Hollywood landscape, George Clooney is definitely one of the elite names. He has the highly coveted dual qualities of being a highly respected dramatic thespian and also an actor that can lead a blockbuster film. Some of his most successful movies to date have been The Ocean’s 11 Series, the law drama Michael Clayton, the much acclaimed Up in the Air and the geo-political drama Syriana. Clooney also owns his own production with a movie director named Grant Heslov called SmokeHouse productions. Under this umbrella, they have produced movies like The American, Men Who Stare at Goats , the extremely successful Ben Affleck-directed Argo and most recently The Monuments Men. It’s important to note that prior to SmokeHouse productions, Clooney was partnered with award-winning director Steven Soderbergh in another production company called Section Eight.
9. Will Ferrell – Gary Sanchez Productions
No doubt about it, Will Ferrell is one of the funniest people living today. Honestly if you don’t think films like Talladega Nights, Anchor Man and Old School are laugh-out-loud hilarious, then you might just be one of those people who doesn’t like cute puppies and kittens either. Will Ferrell created the production company called Gary Sanchez with his partner in crime, Adam McKay. Together they have brought us funny flicks like Step Brothers, The Campaign, Anchorman 2 and the funny cable series EastBound & Down starring Danny McBride. Gary Sanchez Productions is also behind the thriving internet humor site, Funny Or Die which has created some of the most shared comedic viral videos ever. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the recent “Between Two Ferns” online video featuring President Obama and Zach Galifinakis is a regular feature on Funny or Die. You may see it differently, but this writer thinks that Will Ferrell is definitely a natural treasure.
8. Brad Pitt – Plan B Productions
If Jay-Z and Beyoncé can be called the reigning king and queen of the music industry, then Brad Pitt and his wife Angelina Jolie are the equivalent in the film world. In addition to his leading man good looks and long record of Hollywood Hits, Brad Pitt also owns a very successful production company called Plan B. The company was actually started in 2002 when Pitt was hitched to Jennifer Anniston, but after their split he became the sole owner. Some of the movies he’s produced through this platform includes, Kick Ass (I & II), Eat Pray Love, MoneyBall and World War Z. Plan B was also the production company behind the critically acclaimed movie 12 Years a Slave that took the Oscar this year for best picture.
7. Ben Stiller – Red Hour Productions
Ben Stiller is another hilarious Hollywood star. It actually runs in his genes. His father Jerry Stiller is extremely funny too. For those who may not be aware, Ben Stiller is quite a gifted talent – in addition to acting, he’s also a writer, director and producer. He helmed writing duties for the 2001 hit comedy, Zoolander, and his company Red Hour Productions company has brought us funny flicks like Dodgeball, Blades of Glory, Starsky & Hutch and Tropic Thunder. Ben Stiller’s production company was also behind the creative, critic-lauded movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that came out last year.
6. Will Smith – Overbrook Entertainment
If there was ever an excellent example of the American Dream, it would be the life of Will Smith. He grew up in the inner-city of Philadelphia, had a successful music career as the Fresh Prince, starred in his own sitcom and eventually became one of the biggest movie stars in the world. This is the definitely the stuff that dreams are made of. With all his Hollywood clout, it would make sense that Mr. Smith has his own production company. It’s called Overbrook Entertainment and it’s based in Culver City, Los Angeles. Some of the movies produced by this imprint include: Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, Hitch, Hancock and The Karate Kid. But even Will Smith isn’t immune to a few missteps. His last movie After Earth starring both him and his son Jaden was widely panned my critics and was a spectacular Hollywood flop.
5. Tom Cruise – Cruise/Wagner Productions
Tom Cruise gets a bad rap in Hollywood sometimes – mainly because of the whole Scientology thing and also, we can admit that he does tend to act pretty weird on camera sometimes (Does anyone remember the whole jumping on Oprah’s couch episode?) But regardless of that, there’s no discounting that he’s one of the biggest and most bankable stars in the history of Hollywood. His billion dollar Mission Impossible franchise alone sets him on a different tier than most actors working today. Cruise has his own production company called Cruise/Wagner Productions – a venture he owns with Hollywood casting agent Paula Wagner. A couple of the movies they have produced include Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, Valkyrie, Jack Reacher and all four Mission Impossible movies. Stay tuned – Mission Impossible 5 is reportedly being filmed to be released in 2015.
4. Sofia Vergara – Latin World Entertainment Holdings
If you were under the impression the voluptuous Colombian bombshell Sofia Vergara was only good for sexy red carpet appearances and her thick, Spanish accent, think again. She is a certified business mogul and one of the respected movers and shakers in Hollywood. She owns a production and management company called LatinWe (Latin World Entertainment Holdings) with her partner Luis Balaguer. Their company pretty much serves as Hollywood’s gatekeeper to the lucrative and quickly growing Latin Market. When producers and casting agents are seeking Latino talent , pitching Latino-themed projects or need some insight on how to reach the Latino market, she is the one they go looking for. She has also produced shows like Killer Women for ABC, and is reportedly working on a new comedy titled Raising Mom based on her relationship with her own son. Recent annual earnings of Vergara’s LatinWe Holdings are reported upwards of $20 million.
3. Queen Latifah: Flavor Unit Entertainment
Similar to Will Smith, Queen Latifah is another talented individual who took her local music career and converted it into a lucrative Hollywood career. Latifah’s company is called Flavor Unit Entertainment, and it’s a production company she runs with her longtime music partner Shakim Compere. Some of the movies that Latifah has executed through her company are The Cookout, Beauty Shop, The Perfect Holiday and House of Bodies. This imprint has also produced television shows like Single Ladies and Queen Latifah’s current daytime talk show on CBS. Also Flavor Unit entertainment recently signed an exclusive, multi-year licensing deal with streaming juggernaut Netflix to develop and create new content. For a scrappy and determined girl from Jersey, she’s come a very long way.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio: Appian Way Productions
Mr. DiCaprio is a bona fide Hollywood star. He is a genuine Tinsel town heartthrob, but the difference with Leo is that he actually has the superior acting skills to match. This guy has so many hits under his belt, and he hasn’t even hit 40 yet. Some of his great movies that come to mind are Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Aviator, just to name a few. In addition to his stellar acting ability, DiCaprio also puts work in on the production side too. His company is called Appian Way, and some of the movies that have come from his outfit include: Public Enemies, Shutter Island, Runner Runner, Out of the Furnace and tour de force 2013 feature Wolf of Wall Street. He’s also reportedly working together with Jonah Hill on a series that’s loosely based on the highly respected rapper Q-Tip of the NYC rap group, A Tribe Called Quest
1. Adam Sandler: Happy Madison Productions
Born in Brooklyn New York, 47-yr-old Adam Sandler is one of the biggest Hollywood comedy stars living. Not only is he known for being extremely funny, he is also a huge cash cow at the box office. Adam Sandler’s movies have brought in more than $2 billion globally. After having a successful career on the long-running Saturday Night Live show, he became a huge movie star after hit films like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and The Water Boy. Sandler formed his production company, Happy Madison in 1999, and he has been extremely successful with it. A couple of the movies by the Happy Madison company include: Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo, Joe Dirt, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Here Comes the Boom and Grown Ups (I & II). You can rest assured that there are a lot more laugh-out-loud moments coming from Adam Sandler in coming years.