Monday, July 22, 2024

Hyatt Hotel Heir Denies He’s Spent $100 Mil on Jazz Film


Dan Pritzker, one of the heirs to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, started shooting “Bolden,” a movie about an obscure jazz musician, in 2008. He wrapped principal photography last year after many re-shoots. And then: silence.

An offshoot project, a short silent film called “Louis” about Louis Armstrong, was shown about half a dozen times with a live orchestra and then was put away.

Actors and agents involved in “Bolden” no longer know what’s happened, including Anthony Mackie, who plays Buddy Bolden, plus Jackie Earle Haley, and Reno Wilson. Pritzker and I spoke this evening. I thought maybe “Bolden” had been released and I’d forgotten about. Nope. “Bolden” is sitting in an editing room in Pritzker’s Chicago mansion. An editor comes and goes he says, and they have several versions.

“They run anywhere from an hour and forty five minutes to three hours and forty five minutes,” Pritzker said. He was very open and affable. “Bolden” is a passion project. He declined to confirm rumors that he’s spent $100 million. “Even if I had I wouldn’t tell you,” he said with a laugh.

It’s not like Charles “Buddy” Bolden, aka King Bolden, is going anywhere. He lived and died in New Orleans, from 1877 to 1931. He died in a state mental hospital, suffering from schizophrenia. But as a coronet player he’s widely thought of as inventing jazz and funk, even the term “funky.” He’s not completely unknown. The late playwright August Wilson refers to him often in the play “Seven Guitars.”

“I’m in no hurry,” Pritzker told me. “If I were doing this to make money, I wouldn’t have made a movie. I’m not a filmmaker.” His full time job is asset management. He says that “Bolden” is on no timetable, and probably won’t be ready for another “12 to 18 months.” There’s no financial peril, either. If “Bolden!” never makes any money, Pritzker told me, ”It won’t affect my life.”

A musician, Pritzker said he heard about Buddy Bolden from a Colorado radio station manager in 1996. “Here was a story about this man who may have invented jazz,” Pritzker told me. A light went off in his head. The movie begins as a flashback, when Bolden is dying and hearing Louis Armstrong on the radio. The baton has been passed. And then Bolden’s story unfolds.

The movie not only boasts an excellent cast (Wendell Pierce is also in it), but has a famous cinematographer in Vilmos Zsigmond. Five editors are credited on the imdb. Wynton Marsalis wrote the music (and conducted the live orchestra for the “Louis” screenings last year).

The huge list of credits on the does suggest that $100 million is not a crazy estimate. But as he says, Pritzker is no hurry. Does he feel a responsibility to the actors? They shot the movie four years ago. It’s obviously no longer part of anyone’s career trajectory.

“I have a responsibility to make the best movie I can,” Pritzker replied.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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