According to Andrew Lauren, the protective pocket of Manhattan’s Upper East Side formed the setting for one incredibly inspiring upbringing. For despite a “sheltered childhood”, the future film producer’s imagination knew no barriers.
“My parents were over-protective, but I was living a Cinema Paradiso existence” Lauren fondly reminisces about the closely-knit Lauren clan. “My father had a projector and I used to run it. We’d watch all the classics and learn about the great actors: Carry Grant, Steve McQueen, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn. I was inspired by these great stories, and by the overall effect of the big screen which was invaluable to my future.”
But greatness can overshadow, so perhaps even more invaluable to the son of American fashion icon Ralph Lauren, was a family that nurtured “expressing yourself and finding your own passions.” And that’s just what Andrew Lauren set out to do.
“My father found his creative outlet, and I think I found mine” he exclaims, before adding: “I’m really coming into my own now.” An understatement, from a refreshingly unassuming but already established producer of several films, including 2005’s Oscar nominated The Squid and the Whale.
“What was nice about Squid is that we did it for a low budget, but it spoke to so many” Lauren elaborates: “It's great to see people enthralled in the culture of your film. You get NPR asking, who are you in Squid and the Whale? It’s inspiring; if you work with good people and with a good story you can create a great movie.”
For this producer, greatness is what the business is all about - a rarity, and the source, perhaps, of the undying cinephile’s earnest success. “I don't make thousands of films,” he explains, “so each one has to say something. I'm not going to Sundance unless I have something I'm proud to show. Squid was an intelligent coming-of-age story. The film G, fully my production and now playing on Showtime, was a look inside the social hierarchy of African-American culture. We make films that pay back the financier but also allow me to say, hey, I made that!”
Handsome, and charming in a genuine way, it is unsurprising that this behind-the-scenes talent got his cinematic start in front of the camera. But the former actor describes the vocational reversal that actually led him closer to his true aspirations: “As much as I liked being on screen, I came to understand the benefits of controlling the overall film. I realized there was another way to go, particular to being from New York. There's so much untapped talent coming out of Columbia and NYU. Playwrights that go on to established works. A lot of good producers come out of here too: Scott Rudin, James Schamus, Ted Hope.”
So, despite an advantageous branch in Los Angeles, the enamored Lauren is here to stay. “The city’s independent film world is completely opposed to L.A, which is very cutthroat!” he explains. “There's collaboration here - companies send other companies projects - that's how we found The Squid and the Whale and a number of other scripts.”
This communal vitality surely derives, in part, from the city’s favorable walk-ability. “That's the thing I miss when I'm driving in LA”, says the NYC native, “I love being from here; walking down the streets, taking the subway - I don't take cabs! There's something about seeing people out - I feel alive.”
However, Lauren, who would swap the latest downtown hot spot for an intimate dinner party in a New York minute, laughingly adds, “I live on 70th Street. People say you need a passport and an oxygen mask to get up there. But for me it's an escape. Besides,” he jokes, “I'm one of the youngest people uptown! And the restaurants are great. I'm not a club guy - I don't go out ‘till three in the morning. I don't need to be in the thick of everybody, feeling like this is the cool place so I have to go. I love classic places.”
With four films in the works whose topics run the gamut from a privatized space-race(Capture the Flag), to the true-life tale of a geriatric bank robber entitled This Is Not A Robbery and debuting April 26 at the Tribecca Film Festival, Lauren’s taste in scripts appears far less conventional. Though this wide range keeps him pretty busy, the producer insists: “I thrive on that! You need to be diverse with your projects - you just don't know where one is going to land. It's the time when you're waiting that's my least favorite part.”
And when sourcing scripts, Lauren confesses: “There's no particular genre. It's about good writing - you know it when you see it, and I’m in awe of that. I always had this vision”, he confides, “of going to the desert and writing some amazing piece. Maybe one day. But when you see so many great films of the past, there's a level of expectation that you just can't lower.”
If greatness is the bar - and for Lauren it certainly always has been - audiences can only hope that he puts into practice once again those invaluable family lessons, and takes that desert road trip soon.
For ticket information of "This Is Not A Robbery" screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, click here .
I live uptown and one spot I often go to is Via Quadronno. I generally prefer the classic places. I am more into mainstays than the new places. …more