In between producing films such as David Fincher's new drama M, serving on the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations, and spending time with the family, Mike Medavoy is occupying himself by writing a book. The veteran agent, studio executive and producer is co-authoring a tome with writer and editor Nathan Gardels that examines the US's evolving role against the backdrop of global culture and mass communication.
"The world has shrunk," Medavoy says, in the Culver City offices of his company Phoenix Pictures. "Cultures are blending and everybody wants to have their own culture on the big screen. America as a superpower has its limits and we have to realise that in this day and age the battle for hearts and minds lies in cyberspace.
"We have to engage with ideas and philosophies and ask questions about religion to understand our place in this universe. Culture is a negotiation. You can't impose it on anybody and you have to be aware there are other people living on the planet, so you negotiate where the stories work and don't work."
Winning the global battle for hearts and minds naturally leads Medavoy to storytelling, and he is quick to cite three Oscar-nominated films that demonstrate an appreciation of the bigger picture. "I was interested to see how Babel wove together the fates of diverse people through globalisation," he says. "The Queen showed how the death of Diana highlighted the clash between tradition and modernity, and created a shift. Then we have Volver, which is an inter-generational tale. We see a world in transition in all these films, which allows us to break the cycle of remakes."
Eternal curiosity and a desire to understand the broader context stem from Medavoy's cosmopolitan upbringing. "I was born in China to Russian Jewish parents and lived there during the Japanese occupation, before we moved to Chile when I was eight," Medavoy says. "I came to America in my late teens. I literally started out in the mail room at Universal."
Medavoy rose fast, carving out a varied career as agent to the likes of Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick and Jane Fonda, then a senior production executive at United Artists, co-founder of Orion Pictures and, in 1990, chairman of TriStar Pictures. He has been involved with more than 300 features including One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Platoon and Silence Of The Lambs, seven of which have won the Academy Award for best picture, while 17 were nominees.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Phoenix Pictures, the company Medavoy formed with Arnie Messer. Phoenix's credits include The Thin Red Line, The People Vs Larry Flynt, and more recently All The King's Men and Miss Potter. Upcoming releases include Marcus Nispel's Viking tale Pathfinder starring Karl Urban; Ken Kwapis' romantic comedy License To Wed with Robin Williams and Mandy Moore; as well as Fincher's Zodiac which opened in North America last weekend and has been hailed by critics as his most mature work to date - no mean feat for the much-admired director of Se7en and Fight Club.
Medavoy enjoys the rewards that come the way of his collaborators, and remains committed to his own producer's code.
"Two things are really important in making films - your imagination and the need to keep grounded in reality. It's about understanding how these two fit together.
"I've made as many mistakes as anybody, but I've always tried to retain my curiosity, eclectic taste and a passion to do the best I can."