Thursday, October 13, 2011

In His Own Words: Cirque du Solei's Boss Reveals the Simplicity of a Producing Genius

Perched on the lofty edge of one of his many world castles, this one atop the Hollywood hills, billionaire big top tycoon Guy Laliberte talked to the the Los Angeles Times' Reed Johnson about his latest offering, Iris, designed to last 10 years at the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Whether audience interest will last ten years in a town famous for turning over product as fast as it can be "wrapped" and sent onto the road, is another matter.

Explained Laliberte on his producing philosophy, "We encourage mistakes because we believe that means they try things. The one thing we're very brutal with is that they [don't] repeat this mistake the second time."

Others on the creative staff of Iris, like prolific Hollywood soundtrack composer and rocker Danny Elfman, noted the generous artistic freedom they have enjoyed in their work "Guy doesn't come in and micro-manage like some producers can, " said Elfman. "They know that their best work comes out of allowing artists to be artists."

Elfman sees a parallel between Laliberte and movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, who would come around to view a rough cut, order cuts and revisions, leave and let the staff continue."

Cirque does "insist," according to the report, that each of its productions contain a "specified number of circus acts" and that it does not adhere to closely to a story line. Which may explain why many of you leave the tent more confused than when you came in.

Laliberte, something of a chain smoker it seems, likens his creative style to that of Pixar, believing they are similar in fostering a healthy "synergy" between artistic and business interests.

And the big boss encourages his staff to spend their off days in regenerative pursuits, such as sharing art works and taking part in charitable activities.

"I know I'm very privileged," said Laliberte to Reed while seated in his bare feet on his outdoor patio somewhere up there in tinsel town heights, "but the concept of people working all their life, seven days a week, piling up money, and dying being rich, I just don't get it."

Somehow, the image of all the smoke he is blowing into the air, not to mention its impact on his lungs, does not jive with his expressed advocacy for a healthy life style away from the bright lights.

The staff should encourage their boss, likewise, to tend to his health. Without him, this amazingly successful enterprise would likely suffer a sure slow death. From the incredible combination of talents that dance somewhere deep in Guy Laiberte's soul, come the Cirque shows, one after another.

Yes, some are floporamas. Others continue to astonish. Just like the top man said,, in order to succeed you've got to be willing and able to fall on your face or, might I add, slip, Banana Shepeel style.

(Note to the Cirque King: Frankly, Guy, that photo of you up there that appeared in the story, credited to your staff, is wretchedly awful. The lighting. Your stilted militaristic stance. Everything! And yet, in my pathetic desperation to illustrate your mug in my forthcoming book, Inside the Changing Circus, I actually contacted the Los Angeles Times about reprinting it. They wanted over $200! No thanks, Hollywood. Your people in Montreal, Guy, did not return my e-mails. No surprise. But you have an open invitation to meet me at my one-bedroom rental in Oakland. I have a balcony. On it, yes, you can smoke if you must.)


Harry Kingston said...

Well they will not see a dime of my money.
I would rather spend my money on a REAL circus.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

Or, we could pool our pennies and buy one ticket. You take the first half of the show, me the second...

half-Cirque fans?

Alan Cabal said...

There was no single genius behind the rise of Soleil. The glory years were the result of the irreproducible chemistry that existed between Dragone, St.Croix, and the company. You can see just how vapid LaLiberte is, if you examine the full timeline.

Showbiz David said...

Alan, if you find his shows "vapid," I can well understand your position. I have no interest in checking out the ones in Vegas, partly cause I can't stand Vegas, having spent one day there long long ago flacking for James Bros. Circus.

The touring Cirque shows, to my eyes and ears, have held up remarkably strong, all except for the vapid Corteo.