Photo of Danny Cohen and his wife Professor Noreena Hertz on the 2024 Oscars red carpet

LMH alumnus Danny Cohen (1992, English Language and Literature), currently President of global creative investment company Access Entertainment, has enjoyed a run of success for his most recent film project, Zone of Interest, which won two awards at this year’s Oscars, including Best International Feature Film.

A historical war drama, Zone of Interest is centred around the life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his family, who live in a house next to the concentration camp. Loosely based on Martin Amis’s 2014 novel of the same name, the film’s unique perspective and haunting narrative have garnered critical acclaim and sparked deep conversations about its subject matter and the ‘banality of evil’. We spoke with Danny to learn more about his involvement with this impactful film and his reaction to its critical success.

Danny's involvement with Zone of Interest began during the film's development phase. "I was approached by the team making the film," he recalls. "They explained that they wanted to make a film about the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his family. They showed me photographs of the Höss family in their garden at Auschwitz. The impression the photos attempt to give is of a 'normal' family snap taken in their garden. What you can't see is that the garden is right next door to Auschwitz. The children played and Höss and his wife Hedwig socialised there, with the camp and its horrors as their backdrop. I knew then that this was going to be a very important and powerful film and that we should be involved."

Signing on as Executive Producer for the film, Danny was involved creatively as well as providing financial backing. "My role as Executive Producer blended the creative and the financial," he explains. "I gave creative notes on the various drafts of the film's script and notes in the cutting-room as the director Jonathan Glazer worked his way over many months to the final version of the film. My company, owned by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, was also a co-financier of the film. We invested many millions of pounds in its production, so there was some work to do on that side too." Danny is quick to emphasise that "the real credit for the film goes to Jonathan Glazer, the cast, and crew of Zone of Interest. I played a role, but it is their work that deserves recognition."

The critical response to Zone of Interest was overwhelmingly positive, and the film was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2023. "The response to the film has been very moving," Danny reflects. "To see a film on this subject receive such wonderful recognition has meant a great deal. The film is powerful and very creative, so for it to be recognised for its artistic quality has also been wonderful."

The film's success during the recent awards season was a highlight for Danny and the film-making team. "It was terrific to see the film win two Oscars and three BAFTAs," he says. "Recognition during awards season really helps build the profile of a film, so it meant that even more people went to see it."

“Our portfolio is wide in nature, with a focus on creative excellence and exceptional talent,” Danny notes. “Recent projects have been in partnership with David Hockney, Sarah Snook, Tom Hanks, Florence Pugh, Dominic West, Ralph Fiennes, and many others." With investments across film, television, live theatre, mobile games, the new creator economy, and the visual arts, Danny and his team are looking forward to continuing to support a broad spectrum of creative projects in the future. 

Pictured above: Danny Cohen and his wife, writer and economist Professor Noreena Hertz, on the red carpet at the Oscars in March 2024.