Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies review: a glimpse at the man who greenlit Star Wars

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The story of Hollywood executive Alan Ladd Jr, who infamously greenlit Star Wars, is now a documentary feature.

Certificate: Not rated
Director: Amanda Ladd-Jones
Cast: Alan Ladd Jr
Release date: TBC
Reviewer: Simon Brew

There’s a sequence early on in the documentary Laddie – a film brought to life via a successful Kickstarter campaign – where Alan Ladd Jr’s daughter, and the film’s director, heads to San Diego Comic-Con. There, she questions those dressed in a Star Wars costume if they know who Alan Ladd Jr is? He being the man who greenlit the original Star Wars, and gave George Lucas the studio backing and support to make it. Most, inevitably, hadn’t heard of him.

But then, as the documentary gets across, that was his way. A quiet, softly spoken and apparently quite shy movie executive and producer, whose career took him to the top of studios (Fox, MGM) and to the Oscars stage as a producer (Braveheart). Amanda Ladd-Jones thus gathers together a collection of interesting talking heads, some very famous (George Lucas, Ben Affleck, Mel Gibson, Mel Brooks) others less so, to pretty much eulogise about Ladd Jr for the best part of 85 minutes.

At the centre is an interview between Ladd Jr and Ladd-Jones, and initially, this is quite frustrating. He’s so softly spoken, so self-effacing, that he’s reluctant to open up and dish any juicy stories. But what slowly comes across is the picture of a man not comfortable in the limelight. One who does slowly open up. The betrayal he felt over The Right Stuff, his disappointment when Blade Runner didn’t hit big, and his thoughts on the money men taking over the big movie studios. Others pick up the stories he won’t tell, such as getting Ridley Scott to make Thelma & Louise on a budget, and his pivotal contribution to the endings of The Omen and Police Academy. But the most emotional moments come from Ladd-Jones, as she reconciles the incredible impact her father had on the lives of many people, against growing up with a dad who wasn’t around much.

Laddie isn’t a film that digs very deep, rather it’s a well-made, affectionate tribute to a man, that in turn takes us through a changing period of the movie industry, from the late 70s through to the mid-90s. It’s only just gone out to Kickstarter backers, so may take some time to get around the film screening system. But it’s worth keeping an eye out for.

UPDATE: Laddie will be available in the UK from April 26th on Sky Store, iTunes/ Apple, YouTube, Google Play and Rakuten

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