Film Producer Jonathan Sanger On the Making of the Iconic Movie "The Elephant Man"

Jonathan Sanger

Academy Award winning film producer Jonathan Sanger has once again given us a provocative tale that reaches audiences at the core of their heart, only this time his medium is print instead of film. His book "Making the Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir" gives us an insider's look at the creation of one of the first ever indie films and a box-office smash, as well as a peek into the early careers of movie greats David Lynch, Mel Brooks and Anthony Hopkins.

Sanger's memoir details the challenge of transforming a true story about a nineteenth century sideshow freak into the iconic art film, THE ELEPHANT MAN, that continues to be a gold standard for artful cinematic creativity today. His memoir is MAKING THE ELEPHANT MAN - A PRODUCER'S MEMOIR, (ISBN  973-1476666624), Mcfarland & Co Inc publisher, December 30, 2016, 277 pages, $29.95 in Paperback andKindle available on Amazon or on the author's website  View the book trailer here:

Q:  Jonathan, thank you for your time.  Congratulations on the release of your new book about the making of the movie "the Elephant Man."  What prompted you to write a memoir of the making of this iconic movie?

I was teaching a class in Independent Movie Production at the Dodge College of Media Arts at Chapman University in California.  I found that many of the stories I told to illustrate different aspects of the process of filmmaking came from my experiences on The Elephant Man. I thought  that they we so relevant to the process that it would be good for me to write them down to remember them for future classes.  Once I started to write I realized that the book was taking on a different life from simply an instructive piece on basic filmmaking.  I also realized that my distance and perspective on a film I made 30 years ago made my story very different from the book I would have written just after I made it.

While I think it works very well for film students, it has a broader purpose.  It is the story about overcoming obstacles in any field and how you can profit from mistakes and not let them defeat you.  It is also an entertaining story that can be enjoyed as a non-fiction novel

Q:  What does the movie "Elephant Man" mean to you personally? 

Jonathan: The movie is the story of John Merrick, the book is the story behind the film story, of the triumph of his human spirit which will hopefully inspire a new generation who never saw or heard of the character known as the elephant man. 

Q:  What were some of the moral, spiritual and social qualities you tried to bring out through the movie? 

John Hurt, the actor who played John Merrick said it well: "The Elephant Man, in a sense, embodies everything which is misunderstood in us all. And I think - I feel that's probably why people feel such a great empathy for him."

Q:  How did you discover the script?  And what was it about the story that first grabbed you?

My children's babysitter gave to me.  I took the script and told her I would read it and promptly set it aside... for several months. Then one day I came back from a trip opened my desk drawer and there it was... staring at me. I read it - and loved it!  I believed a story this good would have to be made.

Q:  How old were you when you made the movie?  Had you produced any movies before "The Elephant Man"?

At the age of 32  I moved my family to Los Angeles to find work in film. Three years later my baby sitter gave me her boyfriend's script to read which within about a year I produced to become a major motion picture garnering 8 academy award nominations. Previous to this I worked for Lorimar Television on network television series The Blue Knight and Eight Is Enough.

Q:  Did the "Elephant Man" movie open other doors for you?  What were some of the other movies you have had made after this?

 The Elephant Man was my first production which led to both producing and directing films such as Frances, Without Limits, Vanilla Sky, Flight of the Navigator, The Producers, and Code Name: Emerald.

Q:  I believe you also have a few movies at hand waiting to be released in 2017.  Tell us a little about them.

It's been a busy year for me.  I have produced a film entitled Chapter and Verse, A Harlem Story,  which was released in February of 2017.  It has played in many film festivals in the past year. Please check its web-site at    

I am currently completing another film, Marshall, starring Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, and Kate Hudson.  It's a true story set in Connecticut in 1941, about the early career of Thurgood Marshall, future Supreme Court Justice.  It is being released by Open Road, the company that released Spotlight last year.  It should also be in theaters sometime during 2017.  Please look for it.

Image result for jonathan sanger elephant man 



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