Cannon Films Ltd – An Interview with Richard Albiston

Over the past week, many news outlets have been reporting that Cannon Films, the iconic film studio of the 1970s and 1980s that produced Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, was back in business. Eight films were announced – “America Ninja Apprentice,” “Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East,” “Return of The Delta Force,” “U.S. Sniper,”  “Curse,” “Zombi: They Live,” “Writer’s Block” and “The Leopard Hunts at Midnight”. Today we had the chance to chat with Richard Albiston, Chairman of the newly established Cannon Films Ltd, about the aim of his new venture and his ties Menahem Golan, best known as the co-owner of The Cannon Group.


1. Numerous entertainment websites are reporting that your company, Cannon Films Ltd, is a re-launch of The Cannon Group. Is there any truth to these rumors?

The reports in the numerous entertainment websites are not strictly true. Cannon Films Ltd is NOT associated with The Cannon Group inc, in anyway. Most of The Cannon Group’s product now lies with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and is exclusively their property. When Mr Golan was still alive, we did have tentative discussions with MGM Studios about regaining the iconic logo but we were unsuccessful.

With regards to the news coverage, we’re not sure when it started or where it all came from, but I know we were not asked for comment by any of the sources publishing the story. When I first became aware of the story, I spoke to Suzanne, our Financial Officer and Alan, who is our creative head, to see if they’d taken a call or made comment to any of these guys and they hadn’t heard of it, just as I hadn’t. I can certainly understand the confusion, but if we’d been contacted beforehand, we could have set the record straight before these stories were published.

With Cannon Films Ltd, we wanted to allude to the spirit of Menahem Golan and his way of creating works with passion and believing in the artists vision of the project. Cannon was a big part of Golan but bigger than that was his passion and vision. That is what we want to bring and preserve into the 21st Century with Cannon Films Ltd.

2. What lead to you meeting with Menahem Golan?

Prior to meeting Golan, I worked with another iconic filmmaker, Ovidio G Assonitis, who produced big hits in the 1970’s with Beyond the Door and The Visitor. I did a couple of scripts for him and I knew he was briefly at Cannon after Menahem. When my association ended with him, I approached Mr Golan with a idea for a script. He liked it and I wrote a treatment for what would become Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East. I wrote the first draft and we met at the Belgrade International Film Festival to go over the script while Menahem was attending the festival. He came back with a load of changes, but every single change made the script better by 100%. That script was a wonderful collaboration and Menahem’s passion and vision for creating and moulding the script was infectious. We met at the Belgrade International Film Festival to go over the script while Menahem was attending the festival.

3. What was your first movie making experience?

I’ve been making films since before high school with video cameras that recorded onto VHS tapes! I then made some films in college, including a werewolf movie, which lead me to Rome and Ovidio Assonitis.

4. What is it that you enjoy the most about producing movies?

The collaboration. I never really envisioned being a producer, it all kind of happened by default. When we were looking into actually getting Jewel of the East off the ground, I enjoyed all the agent discussions and that sort of thing. But I like working with the various entities that come together to make a movie.

5. How do you plan to recapture the glory of the Cannon spirit of the 1980s in this new day and age?

As I mentioned before, the ideas behind Cannon Films Ltd is to work with the ethos and mindset of Menahem rather than ‘The Cannon Group’. Every film Menahem produced, and of course more obviously the ones he directed, had a certain quality that made it unique. Which is probably why the Cannon Group’s films, and the films Menahem made in Israel and later on at 21st Century and independently, have endured, because they weren’t like every other movie coming out. People love those movies, whether it be an unusual musical like The Apple, or a something like The Barbarians, that for mainstream audience goers and critics, have no redeemable values what-so-ever, they have their fans. Why? Because Menahem had that touch that made them just a little bit unusual and special. That’s something the world still needs, even though he’s no longer with us.

6. What are your end goals in the types of films that you want to produce?

Kind of like above. The films we want to make are a mixture of stuff we’ve developed ourselves in house, or scripts that I worked on with Menahem, to bring this kind of Golan-esque movie that has been off our screens for far too long. Things like American Ninja Apprentice are NOT sequels to Cannon brands. Return of the Delta Force was a script that we worked on with Menahem, but American Ninja Apprentice is an original initiative by us to take a genre and re-invent it for a 21st Century audience. American Ninja Apprentice is a completely original story and unrelated to anything to do with The Cannon Group’s franchise. Some of the films are something to connect us with being a British company, such as working on things like Daniel Farson’s Curse, which is a British source material, that we want to make, God and currency willing, in England.

7. What has been the largest project that you have taken on so far?

In terms of projects at Cannon Films Ltd, American Ninja Apprentice is our biggest project on the drawing board at the moment. It’s taking a while to get the script into a position where I can say it’s ready and it’s what people will want to go and see.

8. As a filmmaker, what type of stories excite you?

All sorts of stories. I don’t really have a preference on what ‘I like to make’ just as I don’t really have a solid preference on what I like to watch. It’s all down to the individual film.

9. Do you have a favourite Cannon film?

Not really. Cannon Films are like sweets, you can never have just one. But there is something for every mood out there from The Cannon Group. You’ve got action, you’ve got thriller, you’ve got sci-fi etc. Obviously J. Lee Thompson’s King Solomon’s Mines had a huge affect on the direction of my career so far, but I like Death Wish II and anything Michael Winner did. But I admire Runaway Train as one of the greatest film-viewing experiences I’ve ever had. I think I love most of them in equal regard. Some of them like Surrender and Tough Guys Don’t Dance, are drastically undervalued, then and now, for how good they are.

10. What are your future plans for 2016 and beyond?

Make movies. Hopefully new and original movies that audiences, not only fans of Menahem and The Cannon Group, but also people who appreciate ‘the genre’ style of filmmaking. We want to make something a little different with that flavour that made Menahem’s production so wonderfully unique.

Picture by Paul Heyes.

Cannon Film Ltd have issued the following Press Release.