by Paul Bond
The conservative radio host tells THR he is developing three original stories as theatrical films: one set in ancient history, one in modern history and a third he considers "faith-based."
Glenn Beck is going Hollywood.
Nearly three years after leaving Fox News, the controversial conservative radio host and media entrepreneur is ramping up a film division at Mercury Radio Arts, the parent company of his popular radio show and digital media operation TheBlaze. Beck, 50, tells THR he has been refurbishing The Studios at Las Colinas, a 72,000-square-foot facility in Irving, Texas, where such films asJFK and RoboCop and TV shows including Prison Break andWalker, Texas Ranger have been shot. "We're getting it ready for some big plans," he says of the property, which he purchased in June.
Beck says he is developing three original stories as theatrical films -- one set in ancient history, one in modern history and a third he considers "faith-based" -- and has optioned several other ideas, some of which could be adapted into VOD features. He adds that he has purchased rights to his 2008 best-seller The Christmas Sweater back from Sony and will turn the story into a movie for television or theatrical release.
The Christmas Sweater is a semi-fictionalized recounting of a 12-year-old Beck celebrating his last Christmas with his mother before she died. He says his later real-life problems with drugs and alcohol (he's been sober since 1994) can be traced back to that Christmas.
"The meaning of The Christmas Sweater is that there are second chances," says Beck. "It is based not only on my childhood but a dream that I had as an adult after I sobered up."
Beck notes it's too early to specify budgets or potential financing partnerships, though he probably has leverage to attract interested parties, considering TheBlaze lands an estimated $40 million in revenue annually and he earns $20 million a year hosting the radio show, according to sources familiar with his business. He also declined to identify the Hollywood moviemaking talent he has hired so far.
"I bought a movie studio for a reason," he says. "I have every intent of finding great artists who will tell great stories that aren't typical. Everybody thinks they know who I am because of my stint on Fox -- that was two years of my life. I'm much more into culture than I am into politics, and that's where I intend on making my stand."
Beck says he has great respect for "artists who risk big," citing filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and evenDarren Aronofsky as examples (despite having called Noah a "Babylonian chainsaw massacre" on his radio show). "Hollywood is missing this moment to reconnect with the American people because they don't speak the language," he says. "Some of it is out of spite -- they might not like people of faith."
Beck, though, says he isn't interested in making movies that preach and cites Divergent, Lone Survivor,Moulin Rouge!, 2010's True Grit, The Magnificent Seven and The Princess Bride as inspirations, along with The Lego Movie, which he calls "tremendous storytelling and great for the whole family, without the double meanings and adult humor that I just hate. It was truly brilliant. I took everyone on my staff one afternoon to see it."
He also loves Frank Capra's 1941 political dramedy Meet John Doe, calling it a timely story. "The message of that film is: Help each other and just be decent," says Beck. "We're beginning to agree that Republicans and Democrats suck -- they've built this machine to grind people into the ground. I hate this stuff. I hate politics. I hate politicians and I feel like I'm wasting my life. Don't we all know what's happening? George W. Bush was taking us down a road, and Barack Obama is taking us down that same road. What difference does it make? I don't want to waste my life anymore."