Semel, Terry

Semel, Terry
(1943– )
   A studio executive born in New York City, Semel received his degree in accounting from Long Island University. He was employed as a sales trainee at Warner Bros. after college and rose to the position of branch manager and, later, president of distribution. In 1980 he became president and chief operating officer of the film division of Warner Bros. and from 1996 to 1999 he was co-chief-operating officer with Robert Daly. Semel worked closely with STANLEY KUBRICK from BARRY LYNDON onward. Semel told Jill Bernstein: In 1975 I was Warner Bros. ’ president of distribution, and I flew to London with John Calley and [others] to meet with Stanley and see Barry Lyndon. Every day, Stanley would call either John or myself to basically say, “I need another day. ” I was blown away by the beauty of the film. I remember thinking that this was my first major assignment as the head of distribution, and to what extent was this a commercial film, what was the best way to distribute it? I knew, at the moment of leaving the theater, that Stanley would be standing by to discuss it. My first thought was that the master would think, Who is this young kid talking to me? But he was not that way at all. He was very smart, very collaborative.
   Stanley developed a relationship with people at all levels in our company, throughout the world. Wherever you would be, in Hong Kong or in Germany, there was always someone who was in fairly regular contact with Stanley. He would communicate with who did the prints, or the person who was doing the ads or hiring the translators.
   Kubrick delivered his final cut of his last film, EYES WIDE SHUT, to Warners four days before his death on March 7, 1999. A couple of days before his death, Kubrick spent an hour on the transatlantic wire with Semel, discussing the screening of a brief trailer for the film at the ShoWest exhibitors convention in Las Vegas, held the following week. Semel recalled for Peter Bogdanovich:
   I had talked to him two different times the day that he died. He called me for about an hour apiece, and he was in great spirits. And his second call, which would have been the early morning of the night he actually died, was really to kind of review millions of details on the marketing of the movie. He was more outspoken and more excited than I think I had ever heard him.
   After the release of Eyes Wide Shut in the summer of 1999, Semel and Daly parted company and left Warners to pursue other career opportunities.
   ■ Bernstein, Jill, “Stanley Kubrick: A Cinematic Odyssey,” Premiere 12, no. 7, August 1999, pp. 86+;
   ■ Bogdanovich, Peter, “What They Say About Stanley Kubrick,” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999, pp. 18+.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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