The Most Curious Man in Hollywood — Brian Grazer (#279)

“‘Good enough’ equals shitty.”

– Brian Grazer

Brian Grazer (@BrianGrazer) is an Academy Award-winning producer and New York Times bestselling author (A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, with Charles Fishman) who has been making movies and television programs for more than 25 years. Grazer and his longtime friend and business partner Ron Howard began their collaboration in 1985 on the hit comedies Nightshift and Splash, and in 1986 they founded Imagine Entertainment.

In 2002, Grazer won an Oscar for Best Picture for A Beautiful Mind (shared with Ron Howard). In 2007, he was named one of Times “100 Most Influential People in the World.” His films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 131 Emmys.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Brian’s “supertool” that helped him get ahead in business.
  • How to pitch people to create opportunity.
  • Favorite failures and lessons learned.
  • Brian’s criteria for choosing what movies to make.
  • How to develop better decision-making abilities.
  • And much, much more.

This episode was recorded in front of a live, sold-out audience of about 2,000 people at Summit LA17 in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

The Most Curious Man in Hollywood — Brian Grazer

Want to hear another podcast with a brilliant producer? — Listen to my conversation with Vince Vaughn. In this episode, we discuss stories of his early beginnings, how to negotiate, his cold-calling career, and important decisions he’s made as a producer, an artist, and a businessperson (stream below or right-click here to download):

#243: How to Fear Less -- Vince Vaughn

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Brian Grazer:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Introducing Brian. [08:55]
  • Brian tells us how his 4’10 grandmother championed his curiosity at an early age. [10:42]
  • On the trauma of being cut from his high school football team in front of 300 classmates. [12:25]
  • Why Brian stayed in college despite the urgings of one teacher dubiously named “Mr. French.” [19:00]
  • Why Brian went (and then discontinued going) to law school. [22:01]
  • Working as a law clerk at the Warner Bros. legal department wasn’t glamorous, but it gave enterprising Brian the opportunity to make connections. [23:45]
  • What was Brian’s “supertool of curiosity” that got him invited to watch studio heads work? [27:55]
  • Lew Wasserman’s no-B.S. advice to Brian at their first meeting. [31:52]
  • Brian wasn’t above using financial bribery to avoid being fired. [34:22]
  • How does Brian’s modern pitch for meeting important people differ from when he first started? [35:09]
  • From fired law clerk to fired up aspirations of becoming a studio executive. [39:37]
  • How Brian’s partnership with Ron Howard came about. [44:44]
  • What advice would Brian give to others who are trying to cultivate their own curiosity? [47:35]
  • Advice for contacting someone who is hard to reach. [50:44]
  • How do people blow it when reaching out to Brian? [52:34]
  • How does Brian choose lunch companionship? [56:23]
  • Does Brian ever go out of his way to meet people with whom he knows he’ll disagree? [1:00:44]
  • The story behind Brian’s signature hairstyle. [1:06:20]
  • How did the movie 8 Mile come to be? [1:08:26]
  • A favorite failure and lessons learned. [1:16:56]
  • Brian’s criteria for choosing movies to make. [1:24:21]
  • An example of what can happen when a good story’s perspective is miscalibrated for its audience. [1:27:55]
  • What separates a good producer from a great producer? [1:30:21]
  • Can taste be developed or is it fixed? [1:32:47]
  • On keeping a gratitude journal and parting thoughts. [1:34:43]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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22 Replies to “The Most Curious Man in Hollywood — Brian Grazer (#279)”

  1. This was the absolute HIGHLIGHT of my entire Summit Series experience Tim. I had just read A Curious Mind 3 weeks prior, and I didn’t even know Brian was going to be there. Was great fun to watch you both!

  2. The LA17 Summit Nov 2017looked phenomenal!! Listening to the talks, post summit, would be equally as phenomenal! Doesn’t appear there is that type of offering, unless I missed it. Always a joy to listen to T.Ferriss, Thank You!

  3. Oh and not just historically, but “Apollo 13” was, is and will forever will be a way way better film than that traversity… … Braveheart

  4. This interview was, indeed, hilarious. I especially loved his description of people’s reaction to his hair and his reasons why he adores it. 🙂 ‘Tis fun to mess with people in such ways.

    Also – the walk of shame awards story. OMG. My neighbors were probably wondering why I was laughing so loud. Could not find the clip online during a casual search unfortunately.

    Thanks Tim and Brian G.!!!!

  5. Greetings Tim,

    I would like to recommend that you interview Jake Wood. Jake is the founder of Team Rubicon, a veterans-based non-profit that responds internationally to natural disasters with the goals of improving damaged infrastructure and the quality of life of those directly affected. Team Rubicon is an organization for veterans who volunteer in these efforts. It help re-assimilate them to civilian life, is a therapy strategy for coping with PTSD, and among other things, gives them a sense of purpose. Team Rubicon has grown from a handful of veteran founders, to a national organization with international capabilities. Jake Wood has dedicated his life to building this organization so people less fortunate can receive assistance in their greatest time of need. Not only will this help promote Team Rubicon so that more people will join (non-veterans are also welcome), but it can bring more attention to their efforts so that people may be more inclined to financially support their cause, as they rely solely on donations. Thank you for considering Team Rubicon and for all you do to help people. Be well.


  6. Just so you know: the crazy Bulgarian guy says “[name of local team] FTW!” Curious as to how where and why you found that.

  7. That was a fascinating discussion by far one of my favourite podcasts! I’d love to see the video for it if it’s available.

  8. Thanks for the bonus chapter! I started a new business recently and I appreciate what you said on the Facebook Live session that every new project you started was chosen to learn something new, so even if it failed, you learned something new in the process. The next few weeks I will remind myself of that. Big fan!

  9. I would love to read your new book, my husband and I were huge fans. In “the 4 Hour work week” you used the word “retarded” disparagingly. We were honestly shocked that someone with your knowledge reduced themselves to such a low level. But, we are here to educate (you see, we have a daughter who really is mentally retarded and contrary to popular belief, words do hurt) and to help change the world in a loving way. So, my question is, does your new book use that word that hurts the intellectually disabled population? Thanks Tim!

  10. A stare hard as ice with a fluid personality follow-up made me pause in Brian Grazer’s interview. It was his description of Eminem.

    Listen to his most recent single if you want a serious mind fuck.

    [Moderator: link removed.]

    He would be an excellent interview:)

  11. Curiosity conversations every two weeks, done! And I loved the stories of early days and insights into behind the scenes ahead of Oscars day, and preparing to win.

  12. This was one of the most awesome podcasts. So thank you!

    You guys are all crazy busy and I understand that most likely nobody will pay attention to this.

    However if by some silly luck somebody does.

    I’ve heard you say few times that you still do not know what you want to do and variations of this.

    Do you ever get anxiety that comes with it? Do you ever feel overwhealmed, like you’re wasting your time?

    How do you deal with this and how do you pick the next thing to do and be happy with it?

  13. Awesome takeaways from this podcast and it is a must listen just for the hilarious story of the Oscar night fail and what the astronaut said!