When Ari Lantos was growing up in Toronto, his father told him to pursue any career except movies. This is a cutthroat business, he told him.
Ari Lantos, centre, has immersed himself in film.
Lantos’ father should know. His name is Robert Lantos, and he is Canadian entertainment royalty, the producer of major features such as Exotica, Eastern Promises and Joshua Then and Now.
Lantos, 28, didn’t take his dad’s advice, though. He immersed himself in film, and now he’s stepping out from his father’s shadow to produce zany comedies for the under-35 crowd. His upcoming feature You Might As Well Live premières Aug. 28 in Toronto.
You Might As Well Live is a film the elder Lantos wouldn’t likely touch. It stars an unconfident man who wants to make something of his life, and his adventures include tripping out on magic mushrooms, roller-skating with a transvestite and consulting his catatonic mother. It’s like a Canadian Napoleon Dynamite, but a lot weirder. It’s an angle Lantos welcomes, he says in an interview.
“I was drawn into the film’s dark sense of humour and offbeat sensibility,” he notes. “This is definitely for the under-35 crowd.”
Depending on the success of You Might As Well Live during its Toronto run, the film may open in major markets such as Montreal and Vancouver, Lantos adds.
With a $1.14-million budget, he was able to wrangle some big names for the project, including actors Michael Madsen and Stephen McHattie. The film is produced under Lantos’ company, APB Productions, although he received some advice from his father’s firm, Serendipity Point Films.
This isn’t Lantos’ first foray into film. He produced Real Time, which follows a hit man named Reuban, played by veteran actor Randy Quaid. He’s also produced a short film, Waldo Cummerbund, shown at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.
Film wasn’t his first passion, though. Water polo was Lantos’ life until he enrolled at McGill University for cultural studies. As a fixture on the junior national team, he had to decide on moving to Calgary to progress to the senior team or stay in Montreal. He chose the latter, and opted for a career in film, an area in which he feels comfortable.
In the coming months, Lantos will be overseeing a new film shoot in Rome and Montreal: Barney’s Version, an adaptation of the Mordecai Richler book. Starring Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman, Barney’s Version is the kind of film that marries Montreal Jewish culture and strong storytelling, Lantos says.
“In one way, Judaism is a character in this film,” he says, mentioning Montreal dining spot Moishe’s Steak House will be a setting for several scenes.
Barney’s Version will also be the first time Lantos works with his dad directly. He is handling the day-to-day issues, from talent relations to meeting with the director of photography. Is he looking forward to or dreading being on set with his dad?
Lantos tactfully avoids the question and replies, “My dad has no qualms at yelling at people no matter who they are.”
Only a few years into his producer role, Lantos has learned a few lessons about this “cutthroat” business of making films. He says producers should work hands-on with distribution companies to ensure the film gets the proper marketing and publicity treatment.
He tends to plan his life “three movies ahead” so he can always be managing some sort of development process. He also firmly believes in respecting people you work with, from actors to production crew. “If you can communicate properly with those colleagues, it makes the whole project more enjoyable to work on,” he says.
Even though Barney’s Version will take up much of his time, Lantos is setting his sights beyond the Richler adaptation. He would like to produce a quality horror film, a project filled with depth and originality. He’d like to oversee a Canadian horror flick that actually crosses over to the United States, a rare feat.
If there’s any strategic executive to make that happen, it’s Lantos. Forget his lineage for now; he’s got a keen eye and determination to make Canada a Hollywood success story.