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JOHANNESBURG — Canadian mining tycoon Robert Friedland, who made billions from discoveries in Labrador and Mongolia, is embarking on a new career: Hollywood film mogul.
The flamboyant entrepreneur, famed as a master showman and pitchman at mining investor conferences, is now venturing into a different kind of show business. This time he’ll be fielding pitches from movie producers as he helms a new Hollywood-based company, Ivanhoe Pictures, to indulge what he calls his “long-held love of film and storytelling.”
His company has already acquired its first hot property, a film called Crazy Rich Asians, based on the bestselling comedic novel by Kevin Kwan, described as one of the most eagerly pursued titles in the industry. His partner on the project is the company that produced the blockbuster Hunger Games series.
But he’s also planning a film that’s much closer to his mining obsessions. “We’re teaming up with a major Hollywood studio and we’re making a movie called Copper,” Mr. Friedland announced at a mining conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“It’s set on Mars in the 24th century,” he told the stunned mining delegates, who eventually reacted with laughter. “By then we’ve got 27 billion people in the world, copper is the world’s most valuable metal because everything runs on electricity and there’s no more burning of hydrocarbons. And we have to go mining on Mars, and the drama happens on Mars.”
Mr. Friedland, once a mentor to computer guru Steve Jobs in his pre-Apple days at Reed College in Oregon, said the science fiction film will be aimed at popularizing his ideas about the global importance of mining. “It’s a little like Star Trek, where you have somebody from every nation there, and the drama occurs on Mars. But it’s meant to explain to people who don’t understand mining that if you don’t grow it, you have to mine it.”
Mr. Friedland’s self-described love of “storytelling” has been famous in mining circles for decades. He routinely promotes his mineral discoveries with vivid accounts of their world-beating size and quality, earning a reputation as a popular and entertaining speaker.
He made his first fortune when he struck it rich at the Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit in Labrador, which he sold to Inco for $4.3-billion in 1996. Later he found the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit in Mongolia, one of the biggest in the world, but last year he lost control of the $6-billion project to his partner, Rio Tinto, in a deal that required him to step down from his company, Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
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