When Catherine Hardwicke's The Monkey Wrench Gang hits the screens in 2008, it will be the result of 15 years of careful nurturing for its veteran producer Edward R Pressman.

The story of environmental activists fighting over-development in the American West has just been waiting for the right time to find an audience, says the producer of more than 70 films.

"I've always believed in the project but it lay dormant for many years," Pressman explains. "It's based on a book written in the 1970s, but the timing is now better than it has ever been because the cultural and political climate in the States is finally coming into play."

The idea of film projects as something that mature like wine runs against the prevailing hurried nature of much of the independent business, which often gives the impression of being in crisis.

But Pressman has been producing movies since 1969 and believes film-making trends, challenges and threats are largely cyclical. His notion that movie history tends to repeat itself if you wait long enough is the product of experience.

He is also someone who likes to think before speaking. A softly spoken man, he disarmingly takes time to consider his response to every question he is asked.

His kind of producing, he suggests, requires that sort of personality: "I think directors have to think on their feet; I'm more reflective. I would rather take time to make decisions, I never wanted to be a director.

"I enjoy taking the trip with the film-maker, not as an opposition between producer and director but as a team with us against the world."

It is a philosophy that has adapted to what were, at the time, relatively untested talents as diverse as Terrence Malick (Badlands), Oliver Stone (The Hand, Talk Radio, Wall Street), Brian De Palma (Sisters), David Byrne (True Stories) and Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant).

It has also embraced a wide range of cultures - Pressman famously executive-produced Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 U-boat drama Das Boot, which became a worldwide hit.

The respect for creative vision and the willingness to gamble on his judgement for talent seems to rule out Pressman ever becoming jaded. Indeed, though quietly spoken, he has a passion for film-making that is far removed from the world-weary tones from producers one often hears at festivals and markets.

"Cinemas are the cathedrals of our time. Years from now, people will look back and wonder at these remarkable edifices that have combined some of the greatest minds of our age in a collaborative form."

Pressman puts much of that down to his roots in the confident 1960s culture, which assumed that film and music would change the world.

But he is not stuck in the past. In his view, the theatre in particular is quite capable of withstanding the threat of new media, which ought to be embraced. What counts is that a creative vision has been brought to an audience. But that does not ignore financial realities. "Each film has two budgets, he says. "The budget that production demands and the budget the market demands. Both are true, and part of the job of the producer is reconciling those two."

But the reward of that reconciliation is never lost on him: "When I see that it all adds up, when the reality of the film becomes apparent and the equation is not just theoretical, that's where I get my motivation."


Pressman's recent credits include Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus and Thank You For Smoking. He also produced this year's Amazing Grace, directed by Michael Apted, and the remake of Sisters starring Lou Doillon and Chloe Sevigny. He is in post-production on the big-budget sci-fi picture The Mutant Chronicles with Thomas Jane and John Malkovich.