HOLLYWOOD -- George Linder, a tough-minded businessman who manufactures lightweight wheelchairs, is producing his first movie by applying practical business principles to the byzantine complexities of filmmaking.
So far Linder is succeeding. So far.
He's landed Arnold Schwarzenegger -- a box-office phenomenon second only to Sylvester Stallone -- to star in 'The Running Man,' based on a novel by Stephen King.
Not bad for a novice whose only movie experience was as a high school extra in a mob scene for 'What Did You Do In the War Daddy?' some 20 years ago.
Production on the picture starts this month after more than a year of fighting the labyrinthine wars with rapacious agents, studio stooges and financial finaglers.
Linder quickly learned that making a picture -- actually photographing a story on film -- is a simple matter. Getting the deal set is the true test of a producer's grit and cleverness.
'The film business isn't all that different from the process of conceiving a concept for the wheelchair,' he said. 'It's a matter of coming up with a product, manufacturing it and then distribution. But movies are more fun and the gamble is greater.'
Linder is starting out in grand style. The budget for 'The Running Man' is $20 million -- none of it his own money.
'There was no point in thinking small,' he said. 'I based my decision to make this picture on the story, not finances. I know it's going to be a highly successful venture.'
For starters, Linder learned that a wise producer doesn't put up a cent of his own money and refuses to allow the professional film 'packagers' to muscle him to the sidelines.
'I always wanted to be in the film business, but I didn't have a father or an uncle in the industry,' Linder said with a grin.
'It began when I came across Richard Bachman's futuristic novel and took an option on it. Later I found out that Bachman was a pseudonym for Stephen King, which accounted for the stiff price I paid for the option.
'I knew it would make an exciting movie, so I wrote a treatment myself.'
Linder and two of his friends wrote the screenplay themselves. 'We weren't professional writers, but after nine months -- mostly working on weekends -- we had an exciting script.
'I had Arnold (Schwarzenegger) in mind for the lead role from the beginning. The story is a sort of 'Spartacus' of the future. This time he plays David instead of Goliath. His opponents in our picture are all seven feet tall.'
Schwarzenegger liked the script and the salary (some $3 million) and agreed to star in the film. The script was rewritten by Steven De Souza, who wrote Schwarzenegger's previous movie, 'Commando.'
'You've got to be a tough businessman to survive in Hollywood,' Linder said. 'I had to fight at every level -- agents, lawyers, bankers and distributors -- to get this picture made.
'I even had to fight to be the producer (with Tim Zinnemann) even though it was my property to begin with. Andy Davis is our director but as line producer I will be on the set day in and day out. I have a hand and voice in all creative decisions, set design, wardrobe, vehicles, locations, everything.
'Decisions have been coming quickly and easily for me,' said the fledgling filmmaker, who has already formed his own production company and is writing another script. 'I'm learning fast.'