Ronin - Frank Mancuso, Jr.

Last Update: 19 September 1998

FRANK MANCUSO, JR. (Producer) has consistently produced films characterized by the intense care and attention he devotes to a project from inception through release. He most recently oversaw production of the sequel to the successful science fiction thriller Species immediately before beginning to work on Ronin.

Mancuso's recent producing credits include such diverse films as writer Chris Brancato's 1930s gangster piece, Hoodlum, which starred Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth and Andy Garcia and the action thriller Fled, which starred Laurence Fishburne, Stephen Baldwin and Salma Hayek.

Mancuso began his career in the early 1980s, taking over the successful Friday the 13th franchise, producing the popular sequels Friday the 13th, Part III and Friday the 13th, Part VI, and serving as executive producer on the features Friday the 13th, Parts V VIII and on the television anthology Friday the 13th, The Series.

Among his additional credits are such diverse films as Internal Affairs, He Said, She Said, Permanent Record (in which Keanu Reeves starred in his first major role), the live action/animated comedy Cool World, Body Parts and Back to the Beach.

Always interested in the motion picture industry, Mancuso began his tenure in the business at the tender age of 14 when he worked as a film booker, handling short subjects for Paramount Pictures in Canada. Learning this business from several different vantage points, he took on a wide variety of jobs, among them location assistant on James Bridges's box office hit Urban Cowboy and associate producer on Friday the 13th, Part II.

Mancuso's first project as a full producer was Off the Wall in 1982. He went on to produce The Man Who Wasn't There and April Fool's Day at the same time he was overseeing the successful Friday the 13th franchise. Born in Buffalo, New York, Mancuso was educated at Upsala College in New Jersey. While attending college, he also worked in the corporate division of Paramount Pictures.

"Frank Mancuso, Jr. was on the set every day, carefully watching the process, making suggestions and making sure certain things were done. He was like a second pair of eyes for the director. When a producer is as qualified as Frank, it's an advantage to have him on the set." - Robert DeNiro

"There is a gritty reality and a strong sense of purpose to this film. It's an aggressive story that doesn't get lost in the mechanics of an action film.

"Nobody in pursuit of the briefcase knows what is in it, or how it's going to be used. So there is no political or moral choice related to retrieving it. Instead, it's about putting your life on the line for something you don't know because it's your job, which requires a very particular discipline.

"A Japanese samurai would put his life on the line to protect his lord and master that was his mission, But our guys don't have a master anymore they are like the soldiers who came back from Vietnam and felt penalized by society."

"The fun of Ronin lies in its construction, in the way we distill information. The audience is left to decide what to buy or not to buy, what to believe out of what any character says at any given moment, and ultimately to wonder about their very motives and allegiances."

Frank Mancuso, Jr. collaborated closely with John Frankenheimer in bringing Ronin to the screen. Mancuso was on the set every day during production, bringing his unique skills as a hands-on filmmaker. "If we are faced with a difficulty, there is not just one person to solve the problem, but two people," notes the accomplished producer.

"Usually, I try to get rid of the producer, which isn't very hard because they're never there!" says John Frankenheimer. "But Frank was extraordinary and I loved working with him. He's bright, he was amazingly supportive and we had the best working relationship I could have ever hoped for. There was never a problem of authority. As a matter of fact, I couldn't tell you where Frank began and where I ended, or vice versa."

A key component to Frankenheimer's vision for the film was to accomplish the exciting and complex stunt sequences the old-fashioned way, without the benefit of digital compositing which is currently most prevalent in action pictures. "We shot the stunts in a way that puts the audience right in the middle of the action," notes Mancuso. "The tension that results totally engages you without being one of those stupendous-but-totally-unrealistic effects you see in most movies today. It's a hyper-real, in-your-face action picture." Considering that the shot list involved cars exploding and tumbling along winding mountain roads as well as high speed chases through tunnels and against four lanes of opposing traffic, the logistics involved in creating them proved to be a formidable challenge even for such seasoned filmmakers.

"We had tremendous logistical problems shooting the action scenes, but our production people did an excellent job," observes Frankenheimer. "The city of Paris was wonderful about giving us authorization to shoot in places that aren't usually open to film crews. We had amazing cooperation in both Paris and Nice."

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