Freddie Prinze Jr knew a Hollywood hustle when he saw one, but Vince McMahon didn't seem to mind.
In 2002, WWE opened WWE Films and started producing movies starring WWE superstars, most of which went straight to DVD.
Freddie Prinze Jr knows all about movies, both good and bad, and speaking on his Wrestling With Freddie podcast, FPJ reflected on WWE Films.
"WWE was making movies. I'm not going to say they were good movies, but I can say that because I've been in some dogs myself, ya'll aren't allowed to say that or you're just haters [laughs]. They were necessarily great, but they were making movies and they were making them for $5 million a pop, which limits the type of movie you can make, how good they look, and the talent you can get. Money helps make a good movie. Granted, you can pull it off without, we've all seen great movies made for $1 million or less, considerably less, but for the most part, money can help you get the talent and technology you want. $5 million got you what it got you. They weren't getting distribution, they were relying on the WalMart DVD distribution deal they had. They weren't even attempting to go to theaters because they were making enough money off the WalMart releases. WalMart had paid them in advance because they had a built in audience," he said.
FPJ continued the story by recalling one of the writers wanting to transition to the films division because things, according to FPJ, weren't working out for him on the wrestling side.
"There was a writer on the creative team, who was a television writer, and I'm not going to say his name, but it wasn't clicking with what wrestlers needed to say and the types of stories wrestlers needed to pull off and the stories we could pull off as a company while having to have wrestling matches," he recalled. "Think of that philosophy, and that was this guy's philosophy. 'The matches are affecting the story.' Dawg, you're supposed to service the matches. This is a wrestling show. That's why Bruce every week was like, 'there is a lot of talk.' He was dead on. This guy asked Vince if he could transition from the creative team to the film division because he had experience in film. He had experience in television, but not really experience in film. I respect the man's hustle, but this was a hustle. He started selling his own scripts under a pen name to WWE and was producing his own movie and then paying himself to do it. I saw this right away. I know a Hollywood hustle when I see one. I felt like there was an advantage being taken of. He should have been like, 'I wrote this great script, lets make it,' and Vince would have said yes. I didn't like the subversive element to it."d
FPJ felt he needed to tell Vince what was going on and when he did, he was surprised by his reaction.
"We're on the tarmac in White Plains, New York. We're getting ready to fly into New Orleans. I see Vince's limo pull up, which means get your ass on the plane because Vince isn't waiting for nobody. I walk straight up to Vince and say, 'before we get on the plane, I have to tell you something. You guys are making these $5 million movies, this guy is selling you scripts that would not sell in Hollywood that I'm sure he's tried to sell a dozen times and everyone passed and you're paying him for something like that and paying him to make his own movie. That's four movies a year at $5 million apiece.' He looks me dead in the face and goes, 'Freddie, it's $20 million, get on the fucking plane.' My jaw (dropped) and I went, 'Can I have that job?' He started laughing, slapped me on the back, and I got on the plane. The whole time I'm thinking, 'that's a billionaire. That's what a billionaire is,'" said FPJ.
FPJ said he wasn't sure he would be able to laugh off $20 million the way Vince did, but that is why Vince is simply built different.
FPJ is looking to invest his money, at some point, into a wrestling company. You can learn more about his plans by clicking here.
If you use any of the quotes above, please credit the original source with a h/t and link back to Fightful for the transcription.