LA Weekly staffer Gene Maddaus has quite a fun-reading yarn on the cover this week. It's the story of Hollywood producers Remington Chase and Stefan Martirosian, by their own estimate among the biggest independent financiers in the business. The fun part starts with their attempt to convince Maddaus not to tell the world about their dubious pasts: "convictions for cocaine trafficking; ties to the Russian oil business, the Armenian government and the African diamond trade; and stints as federal informants." They meet at the Urth Caffe on Main Street in Santa Monica.
Chase and Martirosian say they can explain everything. (They've brought along a Hollywood publicist to help.) But they are deeply worried that if information about their pasts comes to light, they will lose their financing, which will ruin their movie careers.
"To have 'drug conspiracies' is gonna destroy us — absolutely destroy us," Chase says. "The chairman of the board of J.P. Morgan is not going to be interested in getting in bed with a drug conspirator. I might as well just hang it up right now."
A few minutes later, Chase is offering "unprecedented access" to film sets in exchange for killing the story.
"You're gonna destroy relationships," he says. "You're gonna destroy families. You're gonna destroy jobs for people, and countless motion pictures."
Martirosian and Chase might have spent the rest of their lives getting in and out of legal scrapes were it not for a wealthy Armenian friend. Vitaly Grigoriants is an oil man who has supplied the capital for their legitimate business ventures, including their foray into film production.
If you are considering film projects with these guys, you might especially like this part of the story:
Martirosian and Chase burst on the Hollywood scene...in September 2011, with an announcement at the Toronto International Film Festival. They had set up a company, Envision Entertainment, along with a $250 million fund to produce films in partnership with two low-budget action producers, Randall Emmett and George Furla. In 2012, another announcement boosted the fund to $525 million.
The announcements were not exactly true. There was no "fund," and the numbers were chosen for effect more than accuracy, according to Grant Cramer, an executive VP at Envision. But the pair was pumping serious money into production. Soon they were getting executive producer credits on big-budget films. (In credits, Martirosian appears as Stepan Martirosyan. He said he changed his name slightly to avoid having his cocaine case appear on Google.)
As producers, Chase and Martirosian were very different. Chase was often on set. An avid movie fan, he dug into the details of production, often agreeing to spend more money if he believed it would improve the quality of the film. His management style, he says, begins with the premise that "everybody on the set is our employee."
Martirosian was more hands-off. But he was interested in having his picture taken with movie stars. His IMDb page includes photos of himself with Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Nicolas Cage and many more.
By the way, their movies are mostly flops and they have lost a bunch of money in Hollywood. At the end of the piece, publicist Maxine Leonard tells her clients they shouldn't have talked so openly to Maddaus. "Any of this stuff coming out," she says, "is horribly damaging." Heh.
LA Weekly illustration by Andrew Nilsen