“The War With Grandpa (opening in theaters tomorrow, 10-09-20),” starring Robert De Niro as Grandpa was produced by the Peart Family, which consists of Marvin Peart, CEO of Brookdale Studios/Chief Business Officer and Founding Partner of 101 Studios and Rosa Peart, Co- Founder, Marro Media Company. However, this feature has quite a twist- possibly one of the youngest Executive Producers ever.
Tre Peart, of the Peart family was 8 years old when he read the book “The War With Grandpa,” and upon learning it was not a film, pitched the idea of making it into a movie to his film producer parents. It was his idea to cast Robert De Niro in the Grandpa role, since he wasn’t in many children’s films.
EURweb’s Lee Bailey, an entertainment icon in his own right, hit up the Pearts for an EURweb exclusive interview.
Read on to get the bottom line.
Lee Bailey: I must say, I’m extremely interested to speak with you. You guys financed this new movie with Robert De Niro, of all people, “The War With Grandpa.” With that in mind, I have a gazillion questions. Let me just ask a question I’ve been thinking- are you guys rich? You don’t finance a (major, Hollywood) movie unless you’re rich at least, I thought.
Rosa Peart: (Laughter) We’ve done okay. Obviously, we didn’t finance a $42 million movie personally, but we are heavily invested. But we do have what we call our Marro partners and then there’s several levels- there’s a debt piece to the movie. I wouldn’t bore you with the film financing of it all but our company put in roughly $25 million of the $42 million.
Lee Bailey: Well that’s quite a substantial sum. So, if you don’t mind- how did this happen? Is this something you do full time and we’ve just not heard of you before? Or you’ve been financing films and other things in the past and we’re just now hearing about you? What’s the deal?
Marvin Peart: We’ve been doing this for I would say, not independently for ourselves, but in the movie business since 2006, 2007. But in terms of financing projects on our own company banner and producing them, we’ve been doing that since 2013. But this particular film came about- my wife had a rule in the house- if you wanted to see a movie, you had to read the book. It was a way to get our children to read more and our son read an assignment in school and Tre, you should tell Lee exactly what happened.
Tre Peart: So, I read the book- the book is called “The War With Grandpa,” of course. Once I finished the book, I was completely in love with it and I could not wait to see the movie because of the rule my dad mentioned a bit earlier. And once I started looking for the movie and I couldn’t find it; I was so disappointed. And I was thinking to myself, how can I see that movie? And then an idea popped in my head, oh wait- my parents are in the movie business – just by chance. So, I told my mom about it, I was like “Mom, can we try to make this into a movie?” As an eight-year-old, you have a pretty one-track mindset, I want this, I want that. So, I was really excited to see this movie and that my mom actually took me seriously and she read the book and she really liked it. So, she told me we’re going to come to my dad and we’re going to tell him about it and make a pitch- she told me what a pitch was. I originally thought it was like pitching to Boston, like a baseball game. So once that happened, she pitched the movie to him and he liked it, and here we are.
Lee Bailey: So, if I heard you correctly, you read the book and you assumed it was already a movie since you wanted to go watch the movie, did I hear you correctly?
Tre Peart: Yes. Because I thought that every book had a movie and I thought most movies were based off a book. Once I realized that, that wasn’t the case, I was a bit disappointed,
Lee Bailey: Alright Mom- So Trey comes to you and you’re thinking what? You read the book as well.
Rosa Peart: He was very persistent to me to read the book, because he wanted to talk about it and at the time- I’m a reader and I love to read and I wanted my kids to have the love of reading. So many times, I would read books along with him, so we could discuss it. So, he begged me to read this book and I did, because I normally would do something like that. When he said this should be a movie, I felt, “you’re right.” It’s such a heartwarming book. It’s so short, it’s a short chapter book but it had a lot of heart and a good storyline. So, I thought it would be cute to teach him how to do a pitch and present it to his dad.
Lee Bailey: Well obviously he was successful, but was it on the first time around?
Marvin Peart: Yeah it was the first time, and I was literally sort of rushing, so I was packing and getting my office tied up because I was leaving for LA the next morning and she came and said “I want to talk to you And look like “yes right now, sit down you’re going to hear this out.” You know Rose and I have been partners for quite a while, from music to TV to film, so it was something that we agreed, that if the both of us agree it should be a movie then we’re both in. She was already in; I had not heard it yet. So, when I heard it, I said “wow, let me check the book out.” I have a five-hour flight in the morning, I read the book on the plane. And then I called her when I landed and I said “well, I think we found our next movie. Let’s call the publisher and see if the book was available.” Coincidentally, it was and we’d asked out of curiosity- how many books had this book already sold and the publisher said 1.2 million copies. So, we through the moon just in terms of the volume of the book- it was available and we thought it would be a great project.
Lee Bailey: That was in 2013, was that what I heard earlier?
Marvin Peart: You were eight Tre, so yes it was 2013.
Lee Bailey: So, Tre you get the news that movie is going to be made. Did you have expectations? Do you know much about the movie making business? I know you are in the family. But it sounds like you’re not too keyed in on how long it takes for a movie to be made. So, when you hear this are you thinking like in a few weeks you’ll be watching a movie or were you realistic and did you know that the process could take years?
Tre Peart: Not a few weeks, but the next day really. (Laughter) But as I figured out that the process took just a bit longer than I expected, my parents made sure that I knew what it took to make a movie. And as an independent company, you know you really have to take advantage of all your opportunities.
Lee Bailey: So, you had your eyes open during the entire process.
Tre Peart: My parents also made sure I was part of the process, from A to B. From optioning the book, they wanted me to know what that was like. From the script and the auditions- from the script part I was giving them some of my ideas from a kid’s perspective. And everybody was willing to listen, which was kind of cool. And then the auditions. They asked me who I thought would make a good actor for this role. And in certain terms you know who the good actors are. And when we were on set, I helped as a production assistant. I was bringing things back and forth, making sure the actors and everybody were satisfied.
Lee Bailey: I understand it was your idea to choose or to suggest Robert De Niro as Grandpa, is that correct?
Tre Peart: Yes. So, there’s a little story behind that. So, I had always heard my parents talking about Robert De Niro and how amazing an actor he was. I was eight years old at the time and it was inappropriate for me to see any of his movies- I was a bit too young for them. So, I felt very left out and excluded. So, I was thinking, “you know what, why not have him in my movie.” So, then I told them and they looked at me- I’m sure they looked at me kind of crazy because now I’m looking at how much it really took to have Robert De Niro in your movie. But they made it happen.
Rose Peart: When he told us, we looked at him, it was like we felt it was just a far reach at the time. But we also felt like wow, he would be the perfect Grandpa. So, we went for it.
Lee Bailey: How old was Tre at that point when he suggested that? How far along into the movie making process itself when that came up?
Tre Peart: This was actually when I pitched the book to my dad.
Lee Bailey: So, this was in the beginning?
Tre Peart: My mom had told me that when you’re pitching you should have an idea of who should play the role. So obviously the main character, Grandpa, my first thought was actually Robert DeNiro. I wanted to finally see a movie of his because my parents talked about what a great actor he was. So that was from the beginning.
Lee Bailey: I want to ask about meeting him and his reaction to you, suggesting him and so forth. I want to get an idea of the process itself. Was it an easy process, although eight years is a pretty long time- what was the process like, I guess?
Rosa Peart: In the beginning, it was moving along very quickly. When Robert De Niro signed on, he wanted to change the script and we got a new set of writers. So, we were in production in 2017. The movie was done, but we had a distributor, international distributors, but then the whole TWC/Harvey Weinstein debacle happened. It was set to be released in February 2018, but that happened. We had to get our movie rights back, it was a lot of red tape. It’s really gone through a lot since then, and we’re just so happy and grateful that luckily it gets to see the light of day. So that is a big part of why it was delayed.
Lee Bailey: So, coming back to De Niro, Tre, what was it like meeting him and what was his reaction to you choosing him?
Tre Peart: Well I don’t really quite know what his reaction was to me choosing him, but I do know that he was very happy to hear about the story. On the first day of filming, he had sent a letter to our trailer and there was one addressed to me. He told me basically congratulations on the movie and good luck to the youngest producer that I ever worked with. That’s a great first impression to me. I had met him during the script readings. But I was very grateful to see that letter and I was very happy to talk to him and get to know him during the entire filming. And I did talk to him a couple of times. At times I’m sure it was a bit informal. (Laughter).
Rosa Peart: He kept coming up to his trailer unannounced. Everybody is like “don’t do that,” and he’s rolling up into the trailer.
Tre Peart: The driver would let me in, and there was nothing I could really do about that.
Lee Bailey: So, he was a nice guy? When you see him- I’ve seen him in person- he just comes off serious, you see him on TV, he’s always serious. I know he’s an actor, he’s done funny stuff before, but it sounds like he might be kind of personable if he was that open to you. Is he an okay guy? Is that what I’m hearing?
Tre Peart: He’s an amazing guy. I feel like he has a bad rep for the roles he does. But you look him in the eye and you talk to him like you do a comrade. I think that’s something you appreciate. He’s a very personable person and I’m really glad I got to know him.
Lee Bailey: The movie itself- you said DeNiro wanted changes and of course that’s the way it goes. Nothing comes out the way it goes in. Especially when you have creative people involved. But what do you think of the final product? Is it what you envisioned?
Tre Peart: Well, I’ve seen movie a gazillion times from the beginning from when we got the first cut. It’s kind of hard to really think about the true difference, but looking back from the first one to the last one, it was definitely a special moment to finally see this movie that I thought I’d see tomorrow seven years ago. It was special. Seeing all the gimmicks that were being made to make sure all the actors were staged, they were all hidden, all the stunt doubles for the dodge ball scene, that was all seamless. I was very impressed, because I didn’t really know that’s what it took to make a movie.
Lee Bailey: Where was it shot at and how long did it take?
Tre Peart: Atlanta for three months.
Lee Bailey: What time of year?
Tre Peart: Spring to early summer.
Lee Bailey: How did you deal with school?
Tre Peart: Well, we had a tutor on set that would come meet me and the child actors for the first four hours of the morning and whenever we weren’t shooting. We had school and any personal assignments would be given to us and we would do them.
Lee Bailey: Well Tre, I’d would assume that this is your first Executive Producing stint. Are you going to do it again?
Tre Peart: Yes. The short answer, yes. The long answer, I want to learn a bit more about being behind the camera, and cinematography and directing and all that stuff- the creative process on set. I’m very excited for the future to have the opportunities that this experience has created for me.
Lee Bailey: What is next for the company? Do you have your sights on your next production?
Tre Peart: We’re going to build off the “The War With Grandpa” franchise and there’s another couple of books that we are working on. So, there’s a few things we’re working on off this one.
Lee Bailey: With the movie coming out tomorrow, October 8, with the pandemic still in effect, they’re planning on opening it in theaters- what are your thoughts on that?
Marvin Peart: We feel really good about it. As early as a week ago I was on the phone with CEO of NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners, and going through the different protocols the theaters have put in place in order to make it a safe environment. Masks are required, as is social distancing, etc. The bad news is- it’s a pandemic. The good news- it’s a pandemic, the movie is coming to life and people can finally enjoy it as a family, and hopefully for 88 minutes, it’ll take their minds off what’s going on outside their window. And that’s a good thing. If they choose to stay home and catch at home at Christmas time, it’ll be on home entertainment and that’s a good thing as well. We just want people to be safe and have fun and enjoy the movie.
Lee Bailey: Is it going to be opening in theaters and streaming simultaneously?
Marvin Peart: It’s going to be in theaters exclusively and it’s going to take its normal theatrical run as every movie has done. It’ll be in theaters exclusively October 9th and then by Christmas time, Christmas Eve, it’ll be making its home entertainment debut on television typically as most movies do 10-12 weeks after it’s in theaters.
Lee Bailey: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you want folks to know?
Marvin Peart: We want everyone to know that from your family from our family, enjoy “The War With Grandpa.”
This story was unselfishly transcribed and written from Lee Bailey’s interview by Buddy Sampson, a Southern California based writer. Contact him via [email protected].