McEveety’s name and face might not be as familiar as Mel Gibson’s.
But McEveety has produced five of the famous actor’s films, including
the Academy Award-winning Braveheart. Their newest film is
What Women Want, a romantic comedy that also stars Helen Hunt.
Steve, who has been
making feature films for nearly 20 years, discussed his career and
his Catholic faith in his office at Culver Studios in Culver City
as he was preparing to produce What Women Want.
Culver Studios has a
rich legacy. The site was once the home of David Selznick’s renowned
Selznick International Pictures, where such classics as Gone With
the Wind, Spellbound and Rebecca were filmed.
Steve McEveety’s sparse
gray office has a desk and laptop computer but no posters. The producer
wears jeans, t-shirt and pullover sweater as he describes the plot
of his latest film project: “The story centers on a male chauvinist
who suddenly has the ability to read women’s thoughts.”
In the comedy, “Mel
Gibson’s character becomes a better man for understanding the object
of his abuse by being forced to empathize with a woman’s feelings,
something he’s never had to do,” explains Steve. “Good relationships
are based on mutual respect and love, putting yourself in the other
person’s shoes. Without trying to sound preachy, I think that certainly
is what the Bible teaches us. I think our film shows that.”
Steve notes that the
film’s director, Nancy Myers, produced the Steve Martin versions of
Father of the Bride. He compares Martin’s character in those
films to Gibson’s in Women, especially in terms of Gibson’s
relationship to Helen Hunt. Both characters experience the different
ways men and women see things. Gibson “learns to appreciate that difference.
As he does, he actually begins to like women better and, ultimately,
treat them better,” says the producer.
Steve McEveety compares
Women to the story of Jonah in the Bible, “especially if you
imagine the Ninevites being all women. Jonah believes they are the
last people on earth worth saving. But God teaches Jonah differently,
and in a rather amusing way, I might add.”
Steve recalls his childhood
growing up in Southern California. “I’m from a big Catholic family:
six kids, middle child.” He’s a product of Catholic schools: Notre
Dame High School and Loyola Marymount University. His father was a
writer/producer at Disney.
“My family was not overly
religious, until my dad got sick,” he notes. “I was 14 and he was
ill for quite a long time.” Steve explains that his father was the
50th person to undergo a heart transplant. “He lived for four years
after his operation. At one time he was the longest-living heart-transplant
Steve speaks fondly
of his father and describes his own role as a father. “Our kids go
to Catholic schools. We go to church and all that stuff. Am I a by-the-book
Catholic? No. I’m not extremely devout, though I do have a firm belief
George Lucas, who directed
Star Wars, once said that, for better or worse, the media have
replaced the Church as the most influential force in shaping people’s
moral values. “You know, that’s a profound statement,” Steve comments,
but he disagrees with it somewhat. “I don’t think you turn on the
TV or go to a movie to worship. I think the Church is where you go
to worship. But I certainly agree the media have a strong influence
on people’s moral values. Absolutely. Are the media more powerful
than the Church’s influence? Probably.”
He elaborates on the
topic of religion and the media: “Religious people really don’t need
the guidance or influence of the media....It’s the people who have
no knowledge of God, or have lost interest in religious teachings
and the Christian teachings, who are in the most danger from the media
in terms of the bad influences.
“Don’t get me wrong,”
he continues. “There are some good influences out there. Sometimes
you just have to do some channel-searching or movie-hunting.”
Steve and his wife, Susie, have four children. “Steve is a little
like everyone’s brother,” notes Susie. “People like to work with him
because the business is so stressful and sometimes even deceitful.
He’s a great listener, and very calm and honest. Therefore, he’s gifted
at handling intense creative and production challenges.”
How does he handle parenting challenges? “I don’t let my kids go
to see many movies,” he says. “They see the Disney movies, but that’s
He recalls a TV incident involving his daughter when she was 14.
“She was watching Felicity every week for five or six weeks.
Finally, my wife and I turned it on to see what the show was about.”
He explains his reaction: “I turned off the TV and she’s not watching
Felicity ever again. I mean, it’s all about sex. It’s all about
who gets laid by whom. Kids see that as normal behavior.
“I think my daughter would agree with me that it makes them more
open to mimic it,” he continues. But with violence in films, “I really
don’t feel kids see it as being real because violence, technically,
is not normal behavior.
“Fortunately, I haven’t been involved in any smutty projects or bad
projects,” he explains. “Nothing I’m really ashamed of. Some violent
ones, definitely. But as a parent, I’m not as concerned with the violence
as much as I am with the sexual situations.”
As a producer, he was able to bring his kids to the set during the
filming of Braveheart and show them how killing is simulated
in films: “You take a fake ax and crack it over a watermelon,” he
explains. “When it’s on film, it’s a watermelon with a wig on it.”
Parents need to explain film images to their children, he emphasizes.
“Movies are fantasy. A documentary on war showing real men dying is
He contends that fictional violence can have a legitimate place in
films. “Braveheart, for example, is a very violent film about
a very good man. We were trying to show how tough life was in those
times,” he explains.
“Remember, Mel is Catholic. He and I are well aware of how martyrs
died in the early Church. The way Wallace is killed at the end of
the picture is every bit as violent as the way some of the saints
died: Paul was beheaded. St. Lawrence was roasted alive. St. Sebastian
was pierced to death with arrows. And St. Bartholomew was reportedly
“Crucifixion is still one of the most violent and inhumane ways to
kill a prisoner, and it’s a key symbol of our Church that shows how
much God loved us,” he notes. “To appreciate fully the drama of any
of those stories, you need to show the violence. The key is, does
the audience still accept violence as good or evil?”
Steve explains why he doesn’t think anything will be accomplished
if the industry polices itself: “I think it’s all cosmetic, a way
of appeasing those who are objecting. In the end, most filmmakers
do whatever brings the advertisers in or what brings people into the
“There’s a lot of pressure to get films made,” he continues. “There
are films and TV shows with good moral values that are being made.
I think there’s a market out there and I think the studios know that.
“The trick is that, if you want to get a real positive message across
in the media, the less preachy you are, the better,” he says. “So
if you have something to say, you have to hide it or bury it between
the lines. Because when people pay $8 to see a movie, they’re not
looking for a lecture. And it took me a while to understand that finally.”
Steve shares his thoughts on what the industry wants in a film: “I
think people in the industry are primarily looking for what is commercial.
That’s first and foremost. If it’s commercial, it is, therefore, profitable.”
And being profitable ensures success in future projects.
“I don’t find too many people are looking at the morality of the
projects they’re doing,” he admits. “If they were, we’d have more
moral projects out there.”
Although these comments may seem cynical, Steve notes that he recently
came to the conclusion that 95 percent of people are good. “Coming
to that conclusion has made me feel good. And I hope I continue to
have that belief.
“It doesn’t mean the business isn’t cutthroat,” he explains. “It
is. The competition is extremely fierce, because there is a lot of
money to be made and so many people who want to make it doing this
kind of work.”
When asked which of
his own films he’s most proud of, Steve points to 187 instead
of the multiple-award-winning Braveheart. 187 is a smaller,
thought-provoking and disturbing film. It was inspired by an actual
incident. In the film, a dedicated high school teacher, played by
Samuel L. Jackson, is stabbed and nearly killed by an angry student.
The title 187
refers to the police code for murder. The teacher had that number
on his classroom door; it was a prophetic warning before the attempt
on his life. Kevin Reynolds, who directed 187, says Steve is
“definitely someone who helps you see your vision. And he’s one of
the few guys with real integrity behind him.”
Steve explains why the
film has such an impact: “You know, a real teacher wrote the screenplay.
That’s partly why the film is so upsetting. We’re seeing the classroom
from his point of view.”
Today in real-life schools,
“Things are slowly getting better,” Steve thinks. “But it’s still
very tough for high school kids growing up in this country.”
The film is set in the
suburbs instead of the inner city, “because cities are so wide and
spread out you can’t run away from urban problems anymore: They reach
everywhere,” he says. “In fact, there are so many influences on kids
in school these days I can see them growing up completely confused
about what’s right or wrong.”
Is this meant to be
an endorsement for Catholic education? “Not intentionally,” he says.
“Obviously, Catholic schools have had to struggle with some of the
same issues. But what has helped them is their lack of tolerance of
certain behaviors, their respect of certain morals and a tradition
of supporting the family.
“It’s no secret the
public schools have been looking at the Catholic-school model in some
of their reforms and administration, even the implementation of school
uniforms,” he continues. “But I think education in a lot of major
cities is in trouble. It’s bad in the United States, and it shouldn’t
Throughout his career,
Steve has worked on a variety of locations, including Africa and Scotland.
“You know, when I first started in this business as an assistant director
and production manager, I didn’t have much choice in the films I worked
on,” he notes. “Fortunately, I haven’t made any films I’m ashamed
In addition to the films
he made with Mel Gibson, other titles include Anna Karenina,
with Sophie Marceau, and Immortal Beloved, staring Gary Oldman
as Ludwig von Beethoven.
Today, Steve is a producer
at Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions. “I’m in a position where I have
more of a say about what projects I pursue,”says Steve. “And I hope
I will have a positive effect on the rest of the world by my choices.
That’s the power of the media. There’s a great deal of responsibility
that one has when producing films. So being Catholic is now playing
a larger role in how I approach projects. And that’s been clearly
influenced by my upbringing.”
He credits his faith
with other influences, too. “I’m really fascinated with the question
of what is good or evil—in film, in life,” he says. “And that definitely
comes from being Catholic.
“In this business, you
meet people who appear to be wonderful and you meet other people who
appear to be evil. And the question invariably comes up: Is this really
an evil person or is this just somebody who has gone astray?”
He shares his reflections
on heaven and hell: “What is it? Where is it? I’ve been around enough
death in my life—had people die in my arms. It’s always something
you ponder if you’re Catholic—life after death, the Resurrection.”
Steve’s life is a constant
cell-phone dance, meetings, e-mails. It’s late afternoon, and he still
has to cross town to his Icon office at the Paramount lot in Hollywood.
“You know, I really
believe in trying to live life as a good Catholic, keep the commandments,
that sort of thing,” he says. “But making movies in L.A. isn’t the
toughest thing to do here.”
He grins as he explains
his comment: “Driving in this town—that’s the most demanding of a
person’s character and ability to forgive.”
Greg Heffernan is
a teacher at Marymount High School in Los Angeles, California, and
a freelance writer who has traveled to numerous countries. His interview
Sheen was recently published in St. Anthony Messenger.