Bree Babineaux




(This interview is from my 2015 archives)

2015 is setting up to be an exciting year for Campbell-Grobman Films, with its upcoming summer release of CRIMINAL, featuring Hollywood icons Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones. In a candid interview, producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman talked about their new thriller, along with several other of their upcoming releases, including SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY, starring Jennifer Aniston.

Christa opened the discussion by expressing her gratitude to the film’s talented cast: “We are so excited about Criminal. You will see a side of Kevin Costner that you have never seen before. He's an incredible actor, and the cast that came on board to support him are all so talented and amazing. Every day that we would hear about another star that was joining was completely overwhelming. We are very grateful.”

Directed by Ariel Vromen—who wrote and directed “The Iceman”— Criminal tells the story of a “dead CIA operative’s memories, secrets and skills that are implanted into a prisoner to help him stop a diabolical plot.” Lati told me that fans are sure to be surprised. “It’s not your usual action movie. This one will make you think, open your brain to possibilities… that you didn’t think about before. And yeah, all these talented actors packed together is a treat.”

Christa has had many notable roles as an actress, and shared a little about her new role as a film producer. “I would have to say [that my experience as an actor] has helped quite a bit when I am onset and dealing with the actors in our films, but it’s a whole different scenario. As an actor, you get hired for a job and show up. As a producer, you are there from the very beginning, from raising the financing, to choosing a director, getting the cast, prepping the film and then finally shooting and delivering the final picture. It’s a long and stressful process but it’s been very [educational]. I have learned so much these past four years, more than I ever have being an actor.”

Lati, who received an Emmy nomination for the inspirational 2013 documentary BRAVE MISS WORLD—which documents the story of Miss World Linor Aberjil’s relentless crusade against sexual violence—acknowledged that her background is completely different from Christa’s, and that this is perhaps why the two women work so well together: “…my background is a hundred percent feature films; my passion though is documentaries. But I cannot make too many of them, as I won’t be able to buy toilet paper. It’s an immense amount of work with very little compensation. But yes, it is lovely to get nominated for an Emmy and I can honestly say it’s worth it all. What I enjoy about it is knowing I am doing something important, something that can change people’s lives, that can possibly change the world.”

Before they teamed up to form Campbell-Grobman Films in 2012, Christa and Lati worked as executive producers on movies, including Lionsgate’s “Leatherface 3D” (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D) and Kat Coiro’s romantic comedy “A Case of You,” which stars Justin Long, Sienna Miller and Brendan Fraser. Christa explained how the partnership was formed: “Lati has been producing films for years; for me it was just a natural progression. I had produced a couple films without even knowing it and Lati finally came to me and said, “You’re producing this movie! You deserve credit!” So finally I listened to her and from that day on we have become a force of nature.” Lati added: “Christa IS a force of nature. If anyone would hang around her and not take her as a producing partner, they would be crazy. She makes things happen. She is like a pit-bull—she doesn’t let go. It’s not always fun. I mean not answering her email a minute after receiving it—you will be fired so fast…”

The team really made a name for themselves with the release of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D. Both women dismiss the argument that being female makes it more challenging in the film industry, and take the position that no matter your gender, success comes by hard work. Christa told me: “To me it’s an excuse when people say “oh I can’t do this or that because I am a woman.” That’s bull to me. I don't believe in excuses. I believe you have to be hungry and passionate, and stay that way.” Lati was also quick to point out: “What about all the men who haven’t made it? Men/women – makes no difference. If you work hard, if you are persistent, creative, intelligent. etc, you will most likely make it. Regardless what gender you are.”

The team has worked on a variety of genres, so I asked whether they had a personal style they enjoyed, or whether they gravitated towards certain scripts. Christa replied: “Well, we are polar opposites as far as taste. Lati’s passion is for documentaries and I obviously love horror. So I guess you can say that that’s the reason for our resumé having so much variety!” For Lati, “[d]ocumentaries are my favorite movies to watch and, to be even more “uncool,” I LOVE romantic comedies. The cheesier the better…. But I enjoy a good action or thriller from time to time. You will never see me in a horror film except if I produce it.”

Their film EXPERIMENTER is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder, the film explores the chilling true story of Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram’s infamous and revealing 1961 experiments, in which he tested humans’ “willingness to obey authority.” Christa and Lati talked about how they first became involved with the film: “The Director Michael Almereyda had been working on the film for a while. Executive Producer Jeff Rice had given us the script and we read it and absolutely loved it. We decided then that we had to be involved. Michael had already attached Peter and Winona and was looking for financing. So we helped by bringing in Producer Danny A. Abeckaser. The film is also produced by Uri Singer.”

Another 2015 release will star Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, and will feature an appearance by legendary director Quentin Tarantino—a comedy entitled SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY “in which a married Broadway director falls for a prostitute-turned-actress and works to help her advance her career”: “She's Funny That Way was Peter Bogdanovich’s passion film. We had met with Peter and decided then that he would be a great match with producer Holly Weirsma. Holly greenlit the film immediately. We are very excited. Clarius came in and bought the domestic and hopefully it will be released soon.”

Before we ended our interview, I asked the two women if they had any other exciting news they wanted to share. Christa said: “We are now prepping our baby. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise also known as Leatherface. We are very excited for this film.”

*Article References:

“Ryan Reynolds Joins Kevin Costner in Thriller ‘Criminal.’” Published by Variety on August 4, 2014. Retrieved on January 7, 2015

**This interview originally published in The Movie People.