Norton Herrick is a true renaissance man. A titan in real estate and business, Herrick may be best known to most as CEO of The Herrick Company. Born and raised in Brooklyn, over the past 40 years Herrick has become one of the most successful and foremost authorities on real estate transacting and financing. Most impressive, however, is how he has taken these skills and business acumen, diversifying his interests, venturing into “green energy” with electric producing power plants, biomass and ethanol facilities, not to mention thoroughbred horse racing and entertainment. As Herrick laughingly described to me, his foray into entertainment was thanks to his “just looking to put some fun in my life.”
That “fun” started some eight years ago with the founding of Herrick Entertainment and Norton Herrick’s diving headfirst into producing theatre and film ventures. On Broadway, Herrick found a statuette named Tony knocking on his producer’s door for productions like Pippin’ and Hair while film led him to projects like My One and Only followed by, among others, Vanishing on 7th Street, The Devil’s Double, Lone Survivor, 2 Guns and now, VERY GOOD GIRLS starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen.
A departure from the films we’ve seen from Herrick Entertainment over the past few years, VERY GOOD GIRLS is the story of lifelong best friends Lilly and Gerry. Written and directed by Naomi Foner, VERY GOOD GIRLS is set the summer before the girls leave for college and we find both girls have one big goal in mind - to lose their virginity. Complete opposites, the shy wallflower Lilly is seemingly always in the shadow of the exuberant and energetic Gerry, so it comes as quite a surprise to Lilly when David, a hot sexy artist, sets his sights on her. Facing the dilemma of shouting her summer love from the rooftops or keeping it a secret, Lilly opts for the latter given that Gerry is head over heels in pursuit of David. As summer passes, the bonds of friendship and moral character are tested, particularly when tragedy strikes for Gerry and her family. Filled with charm, sweetness, fun and the perfect casting of Fanning and Olsen as Lilly and Gerry, VERY GOOD GIRLS adds a lightness to the summer film offerings - and the Herrick brand - thanks to Foner’s direction and a beautiful sunlit palette compliments of cinematographer Bobby Bukowski.
When it comes to film productions, Herrick quickly notes he is “ very hands-on when it comes to the business end [of a film] and not as much when it comes for the creative end, except when it comes to the casting. . . I am definitely very involved in the casting.” With VERY GOOD GIRLS, “We get some great talent involved from Dakota [Fanning] and Liz [Olsen] and Demi Moore and Richard Dreyfuss, all of them. Just a great cast. How do you not do [the film] with that cast and with the director?” Rounding out the cast are nice turns by Clark Gregg, Ellen Barkin and Peter Sarsgaard.
First-time director Naomi Foner was already attached to the project when it crossed Herrick’s desk for, as Herrick describes, “She was the writer, so actually, she basically owned it. . . The script was wonderful.” Admitting that the director has a lot to do with enticing Herrick to a project, his faith in Foner has proved more than justified. “You’ve got to be real careful, particularly with a first-time director. We had so many meetings with Naomi. She thought she was definitely up for the task and she certainly was.” What stood out about Foner was “her passion for this project. She lived with it. . . she’s lived with this story. I think she wrote it 15 years before, if not longer. She was extremely overly passionate [chuckling]. It was great. . .She did a great job.” Ringing true to life on every level, Herrick recalls that Foner had also “already decided on Dakota and Liz, two of my favorite young actresses. Actually, it turned out Boyd Holbrook, who’s also in it, is turning out to be on the way to being a big star. That was exciting.”
Also exciting for Norton Herrick are some new projects in the works. Next up in film is the horror film, Nighlight which according to Herrick, “turned out great”. There’s also a new tv show being developed through his latest corporate division, Herrick TV. On deck is the Broadway adaptation of the Keri Russell indie sleeper “Waitress”. “We’re making it into a musical. The music and the first reading came out just great. I like to create things and be involved in the creation and production of projects like that.” But the real excitement can be heard in Herrick’s voice when he talks about a new Las Vegas show in the works together with long time friend Marty Erlichman, and his ongoing passion for thoroughbred racing.
Already securing the Venetian as their venue, Herrick describes the new show as being “ an old time Follies show but a 2015 or 2020 version of it; with a DJ and all the new lighting that they have out, with the dancing - for tomorrow’s dancing, not yesterday’s dancing. Bring the old Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin kind of a Follies type of show, but bringing it for today.” They are in the process of selecting a director now. But it’s the little kid that shines through when talk turns to horses. “[laughing] I’ve been really lucky with the horses winning the Kentucky. Actually, in the last 6 years, we’ve placed in the Derby. We won one time [Animal Kingdom], we came in 3rd this past year with Danza and then we came in 4th in 2012 and then I think we came in 10th [before that]. Just to be in the Derby is an accomplishment alone. There’s like 50,000 thoroughbreds born every year that can be in the Derby and there’s only obviously 20 that enter the Kentucky Derby. To just be in the Derby, to get a place in the Derby is big and to win or some in close to winning is a big thing. We were lucky with Animal Kingdom winning the Derby in 2011 and last year winning the World Cup in Dubai with Animal Kingdom.” At the 2014 Derby, “I walked [Danza] down from the stable down to the track. . .That was fun!”
Although having fun with his horses and in the entertainment arena, Herrick is the first to admit, “It’s a ton of hard work. It’s as hard doing a movie as it is constructing a building. There’s nothing easy about it. It’s not as much fun as you might think except it’s just a sense of accomplishment when you’re done and the production turns out as good as you want it to be; and it turns out that you have a great movie like VERY GOOD GIRLS. It’s very satisfying. Producing something, like a power plant, the first turkey manure power plant in America, the largest one in the world, things like that just all feel good. Broadway shows also. We got a Tony for Pippin’ and Hair. . .It’s just fulfilling.”
When it comes to finding a balance with all of his endeavors, Herrick jokes, “I’m still looking for it! One of my problems is being a workaholic. I work probably 24/7 and that’s been all my life, but I enjoy what I do. Sometimes all of a sudden you’re working on two or three Broadway shows and no movies, and all of a sudden a couple movies come up and the shows are done. I like to keep busy and do exciting projects, and heartfelt projects, and green projects. So the ones that come our way, we do. We always have a dozen projects in the process of happening.”
As if his plate isn’t full enough, it looks like Norton Herrick can now add “Fairy Godfather” to his resume thanks to a serendipitous romance that blossomed on the set of VERY GOOD GIRLS. “I’ll tell you what was also fun about this movie. I don’t know whether you know or heard, but Boyd [Holbrook] and Liz [Olsen] met through the movie and they are now engaged to be married! That was kind of an exciting little twist. The funny part is that Boyd and Dakota [as David and Lilly] were the love interests in the movie. Both girls fell in love with Boyd but Boyd was into Dakota’s character, not Liz’s in the film, but he ends up marrying Liz [in real life]! I don’t think they’ve set a date yet. They’re talking about it though.”
Titan of real estate, champion of clean energy, Broadway producer, film producer, Kentucky Derby winning owner and matchmaker. Norton Herrick is very very good.
VERY GOOD GIRLS is now available on VOD and in limited theatrical release.