Once poised to become a stockbroker in the Windy City, Marvin Towns Jr.’s path took a very radical turn. Muhammad Ali, a client at the firm where Towns then worked, was shooting the television mini series “Freedom Road” with Kris Kristofferson. Towns says he was invited to the set, where he and Ali just kind of clicked.
“I never went back to my job,” Towns recalls with his signature, hearty, infectious laugh.
When he was 22 years old, Towns says someone introduced him to director Leonard Garner, Jr., who hired him to work on the set of “The Blues Brothers.” He says this life-changing experience, in which he became one of the head production managers, solidified his relationship with the movie industry.
Within a few years, he became a director, and 50-something movies later, his star is shining brighter than ever – even if it’s behind the scenes.
Some of those movies led him to work with Robert Downey, Jr. in his break-out movie, “Weird Science.” He also worked with Tom Cruise in his break-out blockbuster, “Risky Business.” Add to his credits Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Sean Penn, and you get the picture.
“In all of the movies, I was not just an assistant director, I also appeared in them,” he says of “Bad Boys,” “Wild Cats” and a list of films that would make anyone in the business, let alone in Michigan, salivate with IMBD envy.
“I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve met a lot of great people and they kept my career going,” he shares. “I’ve always been in the right place at the right time with the person who has acknowledge my skills.
“I still take chances and change direction,” says Towns, whose daughter and fledgling director Arielle now works with him.
One direction that he hasn’t changed is the commitment to his family. He says that his wife of 28 years is his “biggest booster.”
“She’s my sanity check,” he says. “And because she’s not in the industry that’s even better.” The couple lives in Bloomfield Hills, along with a little pack of peacocks.
Eccentric? Maybe a touch; but when you’re in the film industry, why not?
He also has a thing for cars. He has forged a life-long friendship with former auto executive Bob Lutz, and they have worked on many projects together, including Ford commercials for GTB (Global Team Blue).
His first love, film, is still rolling strong. Towns took a chance on friend and writer Phil Elam’s independent period piece, set in the 1870s “Swing Low,” about an extraordinary slave living in the 1800s. That risk was well worth it.
“Swing Low” took Best Short Film at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival 2017. Elam won Best Actor while Towns won three awards for Best Direction in a Short, including the Grand Jury Prize.
On the home front, Emagine Entertainment CEO Paul Glantz played the award-winning horror short “Swing Low” in front of “It,” prior to “Happy Death Day,” and again before “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.”
Towns shares they’ve received a few offers to make it into a full length feature film.
“I love what I do so much I feel guilty I'm being paid to do it,” confides Towns.
Photo: Laurie Tennent