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‘Bad Moms’ producer Suzanne Todd learned to follow her instincts

Suzanne Todd
Film producer Suzanne Todd in Burbank.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The gig: Film producer Suzanne Todd has received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and her movies have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.Todd has produced films for almost every major studio, with credits including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Memento” and the “Austin Powers” trilogy. Early in her career, Todd was a production assistant for Joel Silver and a co-creator of the production company Moving Pictures, with Demi Moore. In 1997, she formed the production company Team Todd with her sister Jennifer. Now Todd returns to producing on her own, with the comedy “Bad Moms” hitting theaters Friday.

Finding a path: Todd knew from a young age that she wanted to make movies. “I was just overwhelmed by movies. There was just something magical about them to me,” she said. “Movies would make me laugh, make me cry, and they would teach me stuff about the world. Sometimes I felt I would learn things about myself, and it made me really want to understand how that visual storytelling worked. So, after that, it just became about finding a path to that.”

Persistence is key: Todd worked as a production assistant on movie sets during her senior year of high school and while attending USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. “I know it sounds kind of cliché to say that persistence is really important, but the interesting thing about that very first job for me at the production company is I really tried to do my best,” she said. Years later, Todd received a call from a former colleague who had become production chief for New Line Cinema, asking her to help out on a film based on her past work effort. “It had been 10 years in between — a really long time,” she said. “So it ended up weirdly paying off for me all these years later. Then I went and made the first movie that I produced on my own, at New Line, for her as a direct result of that.”

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Game playing: Todd spent nearly three years consulting on game development for Activision Blizzard Inc., starting in 2010. She helped incorporate Hollywood talent in the “Call of Duty” and “Skylanders” series by bringing in writers, composers and character designers. “I loved it because I’ve always been a gamer,” said Todd, an avid poker player who has participated in the World Series of Poker. “My gaming went through generations. First there were arcade games and then there was Nintendo 64, so I was super expert at ‘Mario Kart.’ Now it’s console games. In the meantime, I’ve had three children, so I came to it again, through them and through their eyes.”

Balancing act: “I sometimes joke about my overuse of Google Calendar and that each of my children has their own color,” she said. Sometimes, Todd has to travel for extended periods of time for filming. “On ‘Alice [in Wonderland],’ I had to be in London many times, but for one stretch, it was almost six months,” she said. “So, we all moved to London.”  

Mom stories: Two writers and directors let Todd tell real-life stories that were used in the “Bad Moms” script. “Obviously, I’m a working mom and I’ve always been, so I think that all moms are very hard on themselves,” she said. “In the movie, we get to take that on in a real way. I hope that people will go see this movie and come out of it and feel a little differently about themselves and the world or maybe they will feel like ‘I am doing a good job.’”

Milestones: Along with her sister, Todd produced two movies for HBO called “If These Walls Could Talk” that she was proud of but didn’t think would get much attention. When the first movie aired in 1996, it was the highest rated in HBO history and garnered Todd an Emmy nomination. “It really was a turning point for me in believing I could make something that was interesting to me and it would still be OK … that I didn’t somehow have to try and figure out what other people wanted,” she said. “I could just focus on what I thought was interesting and that would be enough.”

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Follow your instincts: A lesson that Todd learned throughout her career is to follow her creative instincts. Before making the film “Memento” with her sister — their first independent movie — Todd read the script and loved it. “I thought it was genius, but nobody wanted to make it,” she said. The first “Austin Powers” movie initially was passed up by many studios before becoming a blockbuster hit. “I knew it was the kind of movie that I would watch, laugh and enjoy, and I didn’t want to be judged for it,” she said. “There were these moments in my career that I really had to stand up for what I believed in and not care what people think.”

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