Philip Anschutz may be the biggest Hollywood mover and shaker you've never heard of. The two adjectives that typically precede his name in news stories"Christian" and "billionaire"are the very reasons he can do all that moving and shaking.
Almost a decade ago, the Christian part motivated Anschutz to quit cursing the darkness of mainstream movies and do something about it instead. And the billionaire part, of course, prompted Tinseltown's execs to sit up and listen.
His efforts seem to be working. Anschutz, 69, now owns two production companiesthe family-friendly Walden Media and the more broadly focused Bristol Bay Productions. The companies' creative teams have brought us such films as Amazing Grace, Charlotte's Web, Bridge to Terabithia, Ray, and, most prominently, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the first of seven planned movies based on C. S. Lewis's beloved Chronicles of Narnia. The second Narnia film, Prince Caspian, is due this month. Bristol Bay is also adapting The Screwtape Letters for the big screen, likely due in 2009.
Such cinematic bounty is a result not just of Anschutz's deep pockets: he's also a lifelong film buff committed to bringing more wholesome options to the local multiplex.
Joining the Hellfighters
Anschutz's first brush with Hollywood was a literal trial by fire. It was 1967. Anschutz, then in his mid-20s, had recently taken over the family's once-lucrative oil-drilling business after his father had fallen ill.
After coming up empty for a while, Anschutz finally struck black gold in Wyoming and immediately bought the surrounding oil leases on credit. Things looked good. For one day.
The next day, a spark started a fire, and the entire oil field went up in flames. Facing bankruptcy, ...1