It's not in theaters until August, but the Weinstein Company recently released images from "The Founder," a feature film about the life story of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc starring Michael Keaton.
In case you missed the hype, here's a clip from "Good Morning America" which includes the movie poster and a still from the actual movie:
Though Kroc's story is already well known to fans of entrepreneurial biographies, there's plenty of fertile ground for the movie to explore. Here's a short list of reasons to be excited about the release of "The Founder" this summer:
1. The tagline promises controversy. If the ten words at the top of the movie poster summarize the tale, then the movie should be juicy. The tagline reads: "He took someone else's idea, and America ate it up."
Even juicier, the movie has prompted plenty of real-life drama over who deserves the credit--and the money--for McDonald's success. For example, a story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail boasts the headline: "Secret history of how McDonalds brothers lost millions." The opening reads: "The family of Dick and Mac McDonald have told how the brothers who started the burger chain were bilked by its 'founder' out of a deal which should have made them mega-rich."
2. The protagonist is 52 years old. One of the most compelling facts in Kroc's real-life biography is that he didn't open his first McDonald's franchise until 1955--when he was 52. In an era where popular media celebrates the youth of founders--from Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" to the characters on HBO's "Silicon Valley"--the decision to profile a founder of a certain age is refreshing. More importantly, it's likely to provide inspiration to those over 30 who (wrongly) believe that their window to iconic entrepreneurship has closed.
3. Keaton has evolved into an actor who plays big-picture creators. There was a time when Keaton was known mostly for playing Batman or the main character in comedies ("Gung Ho," "Mr. Mom"). But in 2014, he scored a Best Actor nomination for "Birdman," in which he played a former film actor hoping to give his career a second wind by by writing and directing in the Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver's short story. Now, by playing Kroc in "The Founder," he's playing another character hoping to define the second act of his career by taking it into his own hands. If Keaton makes a third film where his character undertakes a self-defining, big-picture quest, you could argue that his work is capturing an entrepreneurial ethos that has gone mainstream in recent years--thanks in no small part to the lionization of founders like Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg.
4. There's a lineage of efficiency stretching back to Henry Ford. According to the PBS series "They Made America," Kroc's key insight came while visiting a burger place owned by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, Calif. At the time, he was a traveling salesman for Prince Castle, a food processing equipment maker. He sold multi-mixer milkshake machines.
The brothers' burger place needed the capacity to make 40 milkshakes at a time. Kroc wondered how such an incredible number was possible. The brothers, it turned out, had eliminated wait staff and plates--a radical idea in the 1940s. Hoping to replicate these efficiencies in other restaurants, Kroc established procedures for every task, applying Henry Ford's assembly-line mentality about the making of cars to the making of meals.
5. We may or may not see Kroc's relationship with Walt Disney. According to the BBC, Kroc and Disney first met in an Army camp in Connecticut in 1918. The relationship came full-circle decades later, when McDonalds signed a ten-year global marketing agreement with the Walt Disney Company in 1996. Whether "The Founder" includes this detail or consigns it to the cutting-room floor, we'll have to wait until August to find out.