Easton native finds success in Hollywood

`Pie' producer Chris Moore travels from beach town to Tinseltown

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August 14, 2003|By Donna M. Owens | Donna M. Owens,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

He's one of Hollywood's hottest young movie producers, an industry player with a smash new film, a hit cable television series and celebrity pals like Ben and Matt (as in Affleck and Damon) on speed dial.

But Chris Moore is hardly one of those slick and glossy entertainment types. He's more the fun-loving frat-boy-next-door who's made it big -- and can't quite believe his good fortune.

"I've been lucky all my life," says the 36-year-old Easton native, sounding upbeat and friendly, calling from the Beverly Hills area by cell phone. "A lot of great things have happened, and I've been lucky enough to go along for the ride."

Luck -- perhaps. But hustle and perseverance also explain his journey from the Eastern Shore to Harvard, media entrepreneurship and nearly a dozen motion pictures under his belt.

His credits include the Oscar-winning drama Good Will Hunting, and the American Pie teen sex comedies, whose third installment, American Wedding, has been a box-office leader since its $34 million opening two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Moore is finishing up the second season of HBO's Project Greenlight, the Emmy-nominated reality show that follows neophyte screenwriters and directors as they make an original film (and regularly get dressed down by Moore, an executive producer on the film).

"I do get recognized sometimes," says the beefy blond, a University of Maryland basketball fan who often sports Terps T-shirts on the show. "But I'm mostly behind the scenes. You can't be the center of attention [as a producer] and do your job." That gig keeps him busy 24-7.

He is CEO of LivePlanet, the multimedia company he co-founded in June 2002 with Damon, Affleck and writer/producer Sean Bailey. The company produced both Greenlight and Wedding, in conjunction with other outfits. The partners also have various film projects in the wings.

It's a pretty amazing trajectory for a guy whose historic hometown, Easton -- population about 12,000 -- had only one movie theater.

"It was a good life, and a beautiful place," says Moore, who grew up with a lawyer dad and a mom who headed aquatics at the local Y.

He attended the community's lone public high school, forging friendships that remain to this day. He played sports, went crabbing and hung out in Ocean City.

"It's a great part of the world. I give Easton a lot of credit for who I am," says Moore.

Despite the fact that Moore spent a lot of his time watching movies ("In a smaller town, there's not a whole lot to do"), he didn't exactly display an early passion for the art of filmmaking.

He launched his career as a glorified gofer, taking a job as a production assistant with the USA Network.

"I was carrying water," Moore says of the two-summer stint. "I thought maybe I'd work my way up to being a sports producer."

Instead, the enterprising teen networked and subsequently landed an internship in California on a late-night comedy show, Up All Night.

Meantime, the school year was spent at Harvard, studying American history. But it seemed increasingly clear that showbiz was calling. On campus, he would cross paths with another cinematic dreamer -- Matt Damon.

"Matt was a freshman when I was a senior," explains Moore. "He was an actor and lived with some guys I played lacrosse with. We'd talk about Hollywood, have beers and hang out. He was pretty smart."

The two lost touch after Moore graduated and took his first professional job as a literary agent with a small firm, Intertalent Agency. The firm was bought by the powerful International Creative Management (ICM), where he represented writers and directors in film, TV and new media.

Later, while Moore worked to produce his own first film, Glory Daze, he thought of his old pal from Cambridge.

"I needed someone for the lead role, so I called Matt," he recalls. "He couldn't do it but said, `My best friend Ben would be perfect.' Ben ended up starring in the movie, and we became really good friends."

The rest is the stuff of contemporary Hollywood lore.

Armed with a little script called Good Will Hunting, the trio would embark on a three-year journey that culminated in 1997 when the movie became a box-office sensation. Screenwriter-actors Damon and Affleck were catapulted into the spotlight, winning Golden Globe Awards and Oscars.

Moore saw his own star rise as well. His resume would list a string of films: Reindeer Games, Best Laid Plans, Pop & Me and The Third Wheel.

In 1999, he struck pay dirt with the breakout hit American Pie -- the spirited, grossly funny tale about the raucous high jinks of four high school friends, which gave apple pie a whole new meaning.

Audiences loved Jim, Michelle, Stifler and the rest of the quirky East Great Falls High gang so much that the 2001 sequel, American Pie 2, premiered as the largest box office opening ever for an R-rated film. It eventually grossed more than $300 million worldwide, and the Universal Pictures franchise has raked in more than a half-billion dollars.

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