AS AN L.A. resident who has attended his share of premieres, Clippers forward Elton Brand thought he knew the red carpet routine: pose for pictures, then enjoy the show. But now that he's a movie mogul—the producer of the just-released Rescue Dawn—things are different. "I'm a bit nervous," Brand said at the June 25 premiere. He needn't have been. Rescue Dawn—based on the true story of Dieter Dengler, a U.S. Navy pilot who in 1966 was shot down over Laos and then escaped from a Communist prison—has been called "a marvel" by The New York Times and "chillingly good" by USA Today.
Brand got into producing three years ago, after Warriors guard Baron Davis told him about his own production company. "A lot of guys have clubs or restaurants, but that wasn't really my thing," says Brand. "I'm a movie guy." He started a company with nightclub owner Steve Marlton, and they edged into the biz with the direct-to-DVD Bottoms Up, starring Paris Hilton. Since he first saw the script, Brand has eyed Dawn, a feature remake of Werner Herzog's 1998 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly that Herzog was set to direct with Christian Bale starring. "I've got Batman in my movie," Brand says. "Money in the bank."
At the premiere Brand shared some thoughts on his producing experience:
WORKING WITH WERNER
Herzog has a reputation for being a bit wild. "I heard the horror stories," says Brand. But over dinner he and Herzog found a common interest: Wilt Chamberlain. "He talked so admiringly about Wilt's grace," says Brand. By the time the bill came, they had decided to work together.
LIFE ON THE SET
Parts of Dawn were shot near the Thailand-Burma border, in 115° heat. For three weeks during the summer of 2005 Brand would attend shoots in the jungle and then work out with a Clippers trainer in a gym in town. "That heat helped," he says. "I [averaged 24.7 points] that year. The best season of my life."
"I'm a newbie, so I kept my mouth shut," Brand says. During editing, though, he noticed "there was a joke that we used twice. I didn't think we needed both. That was my big stand." Brand lost that battle but says "as long as the raves keep coming in, I'm happy."
Brand (left, with wife Shahara) would like to do a film on Jackie Joyner-Kersee "because her life is so dynamic." But he wants to enjoy basketball for a while. "A championship or an Oscar?" he says. "No disrespect, but movies are my second job."