Hollywood Producer Brian Grazer on Why He Doesn’t Exaggerate

And the female mentor who taught him this valuable lesson.

To kick off Season Two of The Thrive Global Podcast with Sleep Number as the exclusive sponsor and iHeartRadio as the official producer and media partner, Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington sat down with Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer, whose film and television credits include Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Arrested Development, Parenthood, and many more. In a wide-ranging conversation, Huffington and Grazer spoke about everything from how to have a good conversation to Grazer’s relationship with his phone. He also explained why he stays away from hyperbole whenever possible, which is not easy in a place like Hollywood.

Grazer recounted how, when he was starting his career in the late 70s, television executive Deanne Barkley was his mentor. According to Grazer, she was “the most powerful woman in television” at the time. He was working at Warner Bros and learning a lot. “I thought I was really smart. My grandmother always said, ‘You have a gift for gab,’” he told Huffington. “Then I got fired from Warner Bros, because I wasn't so smart.”

At the time, Barkley was introducing Grazer to various important and powerful people. But he found he was having trouble with these meetings. “If I had an hour meeting with one of them, the first half hour was amazing. The second half hour was a wipeout,” Grazer said. He eventually asked Barkley why the meetings weren’t working out.

Grazer remembers that Barkley replied, “Because you’re kind of an exaggerator.” When he asked her to clarify, she said, "They think you're kind of a liar, is what they're saying."

He realized that she was right. “I thought to myself, ‘I think I am kind of a liar.’ I mean I really thought about it because she was sensitive, smart, and judicious. I thought about it and I thought, ‘I exaggerate everything,’” he said. “I was building my life on a bunch of exaggerations.”

Grazer took this wake-up call and his mentor’s advice to heart and started to analyze every conversation. He is now very careful to avoid exaggeration, staying in the moment and staying honest—even in Hollywood where, as Huffington put it, “Hyperbole is in everybody’s DNA.” Grazer agreed.

For example, while he used to say that he was shooting a movie as soon as he had pitched it, he is now more careful about how he describes projects. He refuses to say he's making a movie until he has actually started shooting it.

Choosing to avoid hyperbole has brought a new level of authenticity to his interactions with others. “When you say something, they hear the accuracy of it,” he said.

To hear the full conversation on iHeartRadio, click here.

You can also listen to the Thrive Global podcast internationally for free on iTunes and Stitcher.

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