Former WWE writer and Hollywood idol Freddie Prinze Jr. has discussed WWE entering the movie business and learning a lesson about billionaires from Vince McMahon.
Prinze Jr. is a Hollywood icon that has starred in movies ranging from I Know What You Did Last Summer to Scooby-Doo. The actor also spent two spells working for WWE, first in 2008 as a member of the creative team for SmackDown and then again between 2010 and 2012 as a producer and director.
Speaking on his Wrestling With Freddie podcast, Prinze Jr. shared his thoughts on WWE’s venture into the movie business:
“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, y’all aren’t allowed to say that or you’re just haters [laughs]. They weren’t 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.”
Freddie Prinze Jr. then recalled a fellow writer in the company starting his very own Hollywood hustle as he began selling scripts to the company for these movies under a pen name to cash in:
“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. 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 [Prichard] 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, let’s make it,’ and Vince would have said yes. I didn’t like the subversive element to it.”
Prinze Jr. then reflected on Vince McMahon’s reaction when he let the WWE Chairman in on the scam and recalls McMahon teaching him a lesson about billionaires that he hasn’t soon forgotten:
“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 f*cking 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.'”