He sort of got a late start out of the gate; when Lorenzo di Bonaventura decided to leap on the movie-making horse, he was 30 years old. He may as well have decided to become a super model, because by film-world standards, a start at the ripe age of 30 is near unfathomable. However, if you’ve stuck around to read the credits of any major blockbusters—Transformers and Salt to name a few, or The Matrix and Harry Potter, which he oversaw as a studio executive—you would have a pretty good idea how things are playing out for him. And while most would liken this against-the-odds success story to a stroke of luck, most don’t know di Bonaventura. A look at the roles he’s played in life best tells his story. And… action!
Training Days Molding The Mind
“[When working on a project] I look at what I’m seeing and ask why this is happening now and why it will resonate with an audience member. Training gave me that.” By training, di Bonaventura isn’t referring to hours spent hauling tires across fields, but rather scholarly, quality times at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. It was this intellectual training that taught the producer to look behind the scenes and ask important questions like, “Why is this reflective of the times?” He acquired the skills that guided the kinds of decisions to land hundreds of green-lit productions throughout his career. Many of which, in fact, explore issues that strike a chord in the human psyche. The first film he greenlit as a studio executive, Falling Down, explored the way that people are cast aside by society and the trauma that ensues. Di Bonaventura , of course, always finds the way to make the issues entertaining. Today, he continues to explore such issues. RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) is among the latest of similar projects where he approaches how society discards people from a comedic standpoint, making the world aware of what we’re tossing aside when we give up on those with a lot to offer.
From entrepreneurial attempts at start-up businesses to stints on Wall Street, Lorenzo found that the only thing consistently fueling his professional prowess was an insatiable thirst for entertainment and excitement—a thirst he attempted to quench with river water. In 1980 di Bonaventura turned to buddies to start a river-rafting company. “I’m an outdoorsman; nature soothes my soul.” He took 10 inner-city boys from Harlem, ages 14 to 16, on a rafting trip as they traveled to Maine to stop the river dam. At the time, Lorenzo and company were collaborating with television program, American Sportsman, to chronicle the trip. Lorenzo remembers their first night: “We put the boys in their tents and once it got dark, pandemonia broke out… they’d never seen dark. There are always street lights in Harlem.” This was perhaps one of the greatest lessons for di Bonaventura who today stresses that everyone has to start somewhere. Di Bonaventura took the second course of his academia to the streets—Wall Street that is—which would similarly mold the way he’d approach professional life.