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For filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, making documentaries was never the plan. He was a TV guy -- working on shows like NYPD Blue and Deadwood -- with hopes of making feature films. It looked like he was going to get chance with Training Day until he was abruptly fired. Guggenheim tells us how getting unceremoniously canned from the Denzel Washington thriller set him on a course to directing movies with a message, from the Oscar-winning doc An Inconvenient Truth to his latest film, He Named Me Malala, about the Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai.

Photo: Davis Guggenheim, director of He Named Me Malala, with Malala Yousafzai, courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Hollywood News Banter 7 MIN, 48 SEC

Matt Belloni, executive editor of the Hollywood Reporter, joins Kim Masters to discuss top entertainment news stories of the week.

  • It's been a rough year for Warner Bros. The studio is facing a $150 million loss with the giant flop Pan, and now they're looking at potential Tarzan trouble. The film reportedly still needs work, but its director David Yates has moved on to make the Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
  • The Academy has decided the movie Wolf Totem cannot be China's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Picture. The epic film is based on a Chinese novel and features a Chinese cast, but the director Jean-Jacques Annaud is French. Needless to say, Annaud is not pleased with the Academy's decision.
  • For a recent episode of Homeland, the show's producers hired some Egyptian artists to paint realistic-looking graffiti on their set. Apparently no one on the show reads Arabic though...after the episode aired, they learned the graffiti said phrases like Homeland is racist.

Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter (@THRMattBelloni)

Davis Guggenheim, 'He Named Me Malala' 19 MIN, 25 SEC

The new documentary He Named Me Malala tells the story of the young activist Malala Yousafzai, whose outspoken advocacy of education for girls made her the target of the Taliban. At age 15, Malala was shot in the head while en route to school in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Yet she survived, and now lives with her family in the UK. Malala continues to speak out for female education, and at 17 became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Davis Guggenheim, the filmmaker behind He Named Me Malala won an Oscar in 2007 for the Al Gore climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The following year, he directed a short biographical film about then-senator Barack Obama that aired during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Guggenheim's father Charles was also a documentarian who made campaign films for Democratic presidential candidates, including Robert Kennedy.

Growing up, Davis Guggenheim admired his father's films, but never wanted to do the same type of work. He struggled for years to find work in television, eventually finding success working with David Milch on shows like NYPD Blue and Deadwood.

His real dream was to direct Hollywood feature films, and he thought he had his chance with Training Day. Guggenheim worked to develop the script, sold it to Warner Bros., but insisted they cast Denzel Washington. The studio was hesitant at first, but finally agreed to bring Washington on board. Days later, Guggenheim was fired. He still doesn't know exactly why.

Davis Guggenheim with Malala Yousafzai and Ziauddin Yousafzai
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Feeling burned and heartbroken, Guggenheim decided he was done with Hollywood features and wanted to start making movies about people he actually liked. He got a job as an executive at Participant Media, then a fledgling production company founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeff Skoll. Guggenheim says he made a lousy executive, and decided to quit. But just as he was walking out the door, An Inconvenient Truth was walking in. The rest, is history.

Davis Guggenheim, documentary filmmaker (@DavisGuggenheim)


Kim Masters

Kaitlin Parker

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