Academy Award-nominated producer Michael De Luca is one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood. He’s been nominated for three Oscars for Best Picture (The Social Network, Moneyball, and Captain Phillips). He also produced the 89th Academy Awards last year with Jennifer Todd, and, as we speak in his Colonial-area Fort Worth home in January, he’s in the throes of producing the 90th Academy Awards (again with Jennifer Todd).
Originally from Brooklyn, De Luca began as an intern at New Line Studio and quickly rose through the ranks to president of production. He championed hit films including Seven, Friday, Austin Powers, Boogie Nights and The Mask. De Luca moved on to run production at DreamWorks and Sony before launching Michael De Luca Productions. His company has seen incredible success with Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker. Fifty Shades Freed completed the trilogy in February. Numerous new movies are in the works, including Battlestar Galactica, Warhol, Under the Silver Lake, and film adaptations of the video games Metro 2033 and Gran Turismo.
The producer’s masterful grasp of narrative propelled him to wild success in Hollywood, but his greatest story began on the night he met Angelique. The two were introduced by mutual friend and actor Riley Smith, who invited Angelique to a dinner party at Michael’s showpiece home in the Hollywood Hills — “a very modern bachelor pad,” according to Angelique.
She had moved to Los Angeles at age 21 to work as an actor and model. Mike was interested to meet the Fort Worth native: “I’m a little biased in favor of anyone who doesn’t come from the Westside of Los Angeles and the entertainment industry because it’s such a bubble community. There’s a grounding that I find in people that migrate in from other parts of the country. And I love Texas, so I was excited to just meet a regular person, a good person … someone with a great upbringing.”
Angelique says the couple became friends first. “And then our relationship just organically happened.” They married in 2009 and found a home in the family-friendly LA neighborhood of Brentwood with their two kids, daughter, Skylar, 9, and son, Caden, 5. Moving back to Fort Worth had always been a dream for Angelique, who didn’t think it was possible with Mike’s career as a studio executive. But when he returned to producing, she felt that the timing was right — and she could no longer ignore the visceral pull toward home.
Mike tells the story: “A little over a year ago, Angelique came to me very emotionally and just honestly said: ‘I hate it here. I miss my family and I miss my home. I want to raise our children where I grew up, among all their cousins and extended family.’ It really meant a lot to her. As far as I’m concerned, my home is where my children are. As much as I love New York and I love going back, I didn’t feel the same kinship and roots and real love that Angelique has for Fort Worth. I really respected that.”
A few months later in 2016, Mike gave Angelique the homecoming she had dreamed about, and the family replanted their lives in Fort Worth. He continues to work in Hollywood, commuting by plane for a few days of face-to-face meetings every week. The flight from Fort Worth to Los Angeles International Airport takes 2 1/2 hours, which is comparable to the time he once spent commuting through traffic to his office in LA. “It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not,” he laughs.
Relocating to Fort Worth wasn’t much of a culture shock for Mike, who has been visiting the city with Angelique several times a year for more than a decade. He’s “taken” with Fort Worth for its big-city-yet-small-town atmosphere. “You get the best of both worlds. It’s a metropolitan area, but you get this wonderful, warm, small-town feel. You know your neighbors. And I was also surprised by how young and almost bohemian the culture is. I’m a giant fan of Magnolia Avenue … it feels like a very young vibe.”
“There’s so much to do, and it’s all so easy to get to,” Angelique adds. “I love the art culture here. It’s huge. It’s one of the things that makes Fort Worth such a great fit for our family. We’re both very creative people, and our children are creative. Between the food, the art, the music … and the people are so nice. I was so excited to get here.”
Mike and Angelique quickly settled into the community, becoming regulars at Bass Hall, TCU football games and charity events. The couple is deeply involved with KinderFrogs, TCU’s school for young children with disabilities. A recent KinderFrogs fundraiser held at their home was buoyed by an emotional video hosted by Angelique. It was her idea to create the video, which featured stories from families and an inside look at the school. “People get invited to charities all the time, and you don’t really know where the money goes or how it really helps,” she explains. “But when you make it personal, people can connect with the stories and really see what the benefits are.” The KinderFrogs event raised an impressive $400,000.
The whole family will return to LA for the Academy Awards again this March. “It’s fun being there because it’s a live production. Anything can happen,” Mike confides. His favorite part of the show? “I’m a sucker for emotion, so I like the speeches where the winners thank their moms or dads, or they tell a story about their journey to get there. It’s such a giant moment for the winners. This is their moment of excellence that they’ve toiled their whole lives for. When they speak from the heart, I always get choked up a little bit.”
Angelique gets choked up when she talks about Fort Worth. You can feel the rush of emotion in her voice. “It makes me so happy to know that Skylar and Caden are going to be raised here. I love this city! Oh! I really do. I can’t even call it a city. I just love this town.” Mike smiles and agrees: “There’s no place like home.”
Watch the 90th Academy Awards starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, on ABC.