More than 10 years have passed since Alan Horn left his role as president and COO at Warner Bros. As the executive acknowledged at the time, he didn’t jump — he was pushed, or rather shoved, in spite of having overseen such successes as the Harry Potter franchise and the Dark Knight trilogy. “The notion of my leaving, as you know, did not come from me,” Horn told The New York Times in 2011. “I guess they wanted younger and better-looking management.”
Horn’s dismay was soon alleviated by one of the great “the best revenge is living well” stories in Hollywood history: He became chairman of the Walt Disney Studios and served in that role until January 2021. He remained as chief creative officer until he retired at the end of last year.
Now 79, Horn’s career has taken yet another turn as Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has named him as a consultant at the company. In announcing the move, Zaslav praised Horn as “one of the most respected studio executives in the industry.”
Horn talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his plans to work with Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy, co-chairpersons and CEOs of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, and other aspects of his new position.
How do you perceive your role?
The word we’re using is consultant and that exactly how I see myself. I see myself as an adviser, a consigliere, if you will. I’m there to help, to offer advice as appropriate. My role is to support David Zaslav and his team, including Mike and Pam and my old friends at Warner Bros. I know a lot of people there and I just want to offer support.
Will you read scripts?
I will read as required. I haven’t yet met with Mike and Pam to really talk about how I can best be helpful. David is a very experienced businessman, a very successful leader and manager, but he’s never run a movie company. I’m going to be available to help fill in blanks.
Will you have a role with respect to DC? (The unit is currently overseen by De Luca and Abdy, but permanent leadership remains unresolved.)
I think we would all agree that DC constitutes a canon of intellectual property that is extremely important. I would expect to be involved in DC.
Will you have a role in greenlighting projects?
I would be an adviser to the greenlight process. My understanding is that David has the final word. My role will be to contribute to the thinking. I really am trying to stay in a lane as an adviser/consultant and offer my experience and my opinion about things, including greenlighting things. But it’s going to be their decision — David and Mike and Pam — how they decide to work it out.
What about other areas? You’re very familiar with Warners.
It’s true. David is responsible for all things Warner Bros., [but] it’s true that I spent 12 years there. To the extent that I can contribute to the thinking, of course I will, whatever the subject. But the intention going in is to focus on the production of theatrical motion pictures for traditional theatrical release and streaming. The company has a big commitment to motion picture production.
Did you and Zaslav talk about windows?
I believe in the traditional theatrical experience, and I also know that streaming is here to stay. It’s a new normal. I think these are all still decisions in progress for every studio. They have to decide the balance. That will be David’s decision. He is the CEO, the commanding general.
How much time will you spend on this job?
I’ve been really unplugged for seven full months now in retirement. I’m hoping this arrangement will give me a kind of a revived balance in life. This is kind of a half-time thing. I need to be with my family too. I’m working hard to define this in a way that is acceptable to David Zaslav and acceptable to me, as well. The words we used are “helping in transition,” because he is making the transition from highly experienced manager to the world of theatrical motion pictures. That’s where I spent many decades. Hopefully I can be useful. We’re taking it slow.
Will you be going into the office?
I have a continued concern about COVID and David has graciously said, “No problem, work from home for a month or two, see how it goes.” There’s no pressure. I’m being careful about being around people. I haven’t gotten COVID yet. My wife has not gotten COVID. It’s just COVID, or I would take an office there immediately. My assistant is going to take an office there right away, but he’s a much younger man.
Have you been back to the lot?
I was there a couple of weeks ago and saw old friends — [former studio chief] Toby Emmerich, [president of production and development at Warner Brothers Pictures] Courtenay Valenti, [business affairs chief] Steve Spira. I said hello to the guards at the gate and the guard in the [main studio] building. It was pleasantly nostalgic to say hello again.
Did you have anything to do with return of Spira? (Spira had left his position in 2020 but returned in June.)
David asked me about Steve. I think Bob Daly said something to [Zaslav]. Steve is a good friend and a superb executive.
Did you speak to your former colleagues at Disney about this role?
I wanted to give them a heads up. Bob Iger already knew. I called Bob Chapek, then Alan Bergman. Then I reached out to the heads of each of the studios and got most of them. I wanted each of them to hear it from me. I was very gratified and pleased by their lovely response.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.