In Hollywood's Malpaso Production office sit two main chairs.
One belongs to Clint Eastwood.
Think you're an Eastwood fan? Find the titlesFremd High School graduate Robert Lorenz has more than 20 films to his credit as an assistant director. He joined Clint Eastwood's Malpaso Productions in 1994. He has been a member of the Directors Guild of America since 1993 and the Producers Guild of America since 2005.
He has proved himself to be Malpaso's million-dollar baby, having worked on such movies as "Mystic River," "Blood Work," "Space Cowboys," "True Crime," "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," and many others. Lorenz says his personal favorite Eastwood movie of all time is "Dirty Harry."
By the way, there are 21 different Eastwood movie titles mentioned in this piece on Lorenz. If you can find them all, send the list to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Dann Gire
The other belongs to Malpaso executive Robert Lorenz, a Fremd High School graduate making his directorial debut with the drama "Trouble With the Curve," opening Friday and starring Eastwood.
Not bad for kid who grew up in Rolling Meadows and Palatine.
"I used to see movies at the Music Box Theatre and the Biograph in Chicago," Lorenz told us during a recent visit to the Windy City. "I lived at the Woodfield Mall. They had these big, giant theaters there. At least they felt big and giant to me. And that's where I saw all the 'Star Wars' movies, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and everything else! I would go there all the time with my friends."
Lorenz started out as a rookie on 1991's "Femme Fatale" as second-second assistant director before achieving absolute power running Malpaso with Eastwood.
We had to ask: How did he wind up partnering with Dirty Harry and being responsible hereafter for creating Malpaso's movies, from selecting the scripts for production to supervising the marketing campaigns?
"I decided in high school that making movies is what I wanted to do," Lorenz said. "I went from Fremd to the University of Iowa to study film. As soon as I finished there, I packed up my car and moved west. I started working in pictures at the bottom, working for free on movie sets."
So, paying dues counts. But why chase a risky career in the movies?
"I loved movies," he said. "I always hated the idea of being stuck in an office. I was always the kid looking out the window seeing what was going on outside while I was in school. Making movies seemed like something totally fun."
Doing his homework and having a dream enabled Lorenz to run the gauntlet to success. What else is responsible for him hitting Hollywood with such magnum force?
"I always say it's a combination of luck, hard work and a little bit of talent," Lorenz said. "It's unique for every individual -- that's why it's so hard to describe how it's done. There's a different path for everybody. You have to go out and find it."
In a perfect world, that sounds easy, but does Lorenz really believe that you should go all the way to Hollywood any which way you can?
"Yes, I put myself in a position where I would be given opportunities by moving out to Los Angeles rather than stay in Chicago, although I love the city. Every step of the way, I had to demonstrate my value to others."
Lorenz's directorial debut, "Trouble With the Curve," promises to make a sudden impact at the box office. It concerns a successful attorney (Amy Adams) who helps her aging baseball scout dad (Eastwood) go one more season to prove he's still got the talent to spot talent.
Surely, directing his first movie with the Man With No Name couldn't have been a breezy experience for Lorenz. He must have walked a real tightrope to direct an Oscar-winning director, right?
"Well," Lorenz said, "Clint having directed so many films, this was second nature to him. If he sensed there was a moment of hesitation on the set, he would jump in there and start calling the shots.
"So, I had to be as well-prepared as possible. I shot all day, then I was up all night, coming up with the shot list and the blocking for the next day's shoot. I came in totally prepared so there wouldn't be a single moment when he could jump in there and do it his way."
We asked Lorenz our standard operational question: What do suburban natives have that separates them from most other people in the industry?
"A modesty. A positive attitude," he instantly replied. "A desire to please. Those are characteristics of people who come out of the Midwest and you can spot them. The Midwesterners out there can spot each other."
While filming Eastwood's "The Bridges of Madison County" at the University of Iowa, Lorenz spotted one.
Her name was Melissa Cummins, a St. Charles native. She had been hired to work on the film. She beguiled him.
They married about a year later and now have two children, ages 7 and 9, whom they occasionally bring to Barrington and Prospect Heights to visit the grandparents.
We hated to put Lorenz in the line of fire, but we had to ask what it's like to work with a Hollywood legend.
"He's just a down-to-earth kind of guy," Lorenz said. "He likes to have a good time and likes to fool around."
At the risk of being unforgiven for delving into politics, we asked Lorenz what he thought of Eastwood's empty chair bit during the Republican National Convention.
"I didn't really know what was going on there," Lorenz replied. "You'd have to ask him what that was all about.
"I think we're a good example of how two people can work together successfully and still have different political views. That's a good example for people, I think."
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a great column feature, email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.