Michael Alden - a man who doesn't recognise the possibility of defeat
Philip Fisher talks to the Broadway, West End and film producer
Michael Alden is a charming, very young-looking man who likes taking chances and doesn't recognise the possibility of defeat. As a film and theatre producer, this makes him both refreshing and, he hopes, successful more often than not.
He is also an astute businessman who has made some great deals to create his Broadway debut (with partner Eric Falkenstein) which can pay investors back even if the theatre is little more than half full.
He hopes to have a big 2006. In January, he brings that first show to Broadway. It is Bridge & Tunnel, written and performed by the multi-talented Sarah Jones, which arrives at the 580 seat Helen Hayes Theatre on 12 January for a strictly limited 8 1/2 week run to be followed by a nation-wide tour.
Bridge & Tunnel features Miss Jones in a myriad of guises and voices, representing the usually unspoken experiences of fourteen immigrants to that great city of immigrants, New York.
This touching and funny play was described by Variety as "comically loaded, politically pointed and achingly poignant". It was a major success, selling out the Culture Project on Bleecker Street for seven straight months, helped by support from some very big names, including one of its backers, Meryl Streep.
Michael Alden has such a belief in this project that he is even recommending family and friends to invest in the show that he hopes will sell on a low budget. This relies on major marketing by word of mouth rather than what he regards as massively over-priced TV slots.
Later in the year, in addition to another projected Broadway show, Alden should have two films in production simultaneously, Batboy the Movie transfers the Off-Broadway and West End musical to celluloid while Been There Come Back is a wacky romantic comedy, set in both England and America.
Alden has always worked in film since, as a child, he was cast opposite a true screen legend - Lassie. This was not the silver screen debut that he might have wished for since "I was scared of the dog" and only lasted three weeks.
In the 70s, he continued his acting pursuits, appearing in such gems as Gas Pump Girls and Drive-in Massacre but, he insists, (despite a credit on IMDB) was not involved with Chicks with Sticks : Live in Las Vegas.
His first full time job was as an accountant at a film company. He gained swift promotion after his boss was unexpectedly fired during Alden's first month and no one upstairs was aware of his hire. He answered the phone and stated, "this is the supervisor" and with a little luck, made it to the Vice Presidency during his tenure.
From there, he eventually moved into production, working successfully at Cannon Films, Pathe and MGM.
As an independent producer, he is proud to have been a part of Stephen Daldry's The Hours, based on Michael Cunningham's book about Virginia Woolf and starring Miss Streep.
As lead producer, he has produced independent work including the quirky comedy Kissing Jessica Stein and The Zookeeper starring Sam Neill.
For no good reason following his successes in 2002, he was out of (film) work for nearly three years, part of which he spent in London. There, he decided to bring over his Off-Broadway hit Batboy The Musical.
After a short run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, this appeared at the jinxed Shaftesbury Theatre and despite Alden's novel promotional ideas, met with little critical support and, as he bitterly admits, cost him and his investors a lot of money.
Those ideas were unique. Amongst many others, they auctioned a place in the show to benefit Children in Need and had a "sneak peeks" evening to allow winners of a competition to meet the stars to raise awareness and increase student attendance at the theatre.
However, Alden wasn't desperately downhearted as he was always playing a long game. Having a London production was a step on the road towards the creation of Batboy The Movie, with John Landis directing.
Casting is still open and he would like to see young actors in the lead roles. This should be possible if his ideas for the older parts come to fruition. Mr. Landis has had discussions with Dan Aykroyd and Alden would love to see a pair of Hollywood superstars playing the parents. His dream pairing would be Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Alden has already taken on the West End bigwigs and the world of film and his formula is based on great belief in his projects and no fear. By the end of 2006, he could be a very big name and, by the following year, aims to prove himself in London. It is inevitable that both he and audiences will have a lot of fun as he makes his way there.