Entertainment

How an 'insane' meeting between super producer Brian Grazer and Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard turned into the smash hit TV show 'Empire'

Key Points
  • Hollywood's Brian Grazer says his decision to meet with Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard led to a handful of the producer's projects.
  • "Because I met him, that turned into knowing RZA, which turned into 'American Gangster,' which turned into the 'Made in America' concert I produced with Jay Z, which became 'Empire,' which became the 'Wu-Tang Clan' that is out on Hulu right now," recalls Grazer.
  • Grazer also expresses confidence in streaming platforms, saying the classic model of releasing a movie in theaters is not necessarily "essential" anymore.
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Producer Brian Grazer weighs in on the streaming wars

Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer described Tuesday how a meeting with Wu-Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard spawned a number of movie, music and television projects, including the smash TV hit "Empire."

Grazer said the now-deceased rapper, also known as ODB (real name: Russell Jones), first popped on his radar when the producer was sitting in a New York taxi over 20 years ago listening to a "shock jock" on the radio.

"[ODB] was so wild and crazy. I thought, who is a man called ODB," said Grazer. "So I decided I'm going to meet him."

Two days later, they got together for an "insane" meeting, recalled Grazer, who appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" to talk about his new book, "Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection."

"Because I met [ODB], that turned into knowing [rapper] RZA, which turned into 'American Gangster,' which turned into the 'Made in America' concert I produced with Jay Z, which became 'Empire,' which became the 'Wu-Tang Clan' that is out on Hulu right now," Grazer said. "All because I met this one person."

Grazer expresses confidence in streaming platforms

Grazer also discussed the rise in streaming video platforms and their place in putting out films, saying the classic model of releasing a movie in theaters is not necessarily "essential" anymore.

"I want everybody to know about the thing I'm making, so I'm on a tightrope," said Grazer. "Knowledge and differentiation doesn't exclusively come from being in a theatrical environment. It comes from marketing."

If a story is popular and streaming giants want to pay for the rights, they'll find a large marketing budget, "so the world knows about it," he said.

Grazer's vote of confidence in streaming platforms comes at a good time for companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Earlier this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to allow any film to be considered for an Oscar, as long as it has a seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles theater. Even if it appeared on a streaming service on or after the day of its theatrical debut, it is still eligible.

"Technology does give you reach. If you've made something and it's great, it goes into every country in the world," Grazer said. "There's a lot of power in that."