Published On: Tue, Sep 12th, 2023

Mike Fleiss Talks Breaking Into Hollywood and Where He’s Heading Now

Before Mike Fleiss produced some of the hottest reality shows to ever hit the airwaves, he was just a curious, TV-loving kid who spent his evenings watching shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man and Family — and memorable TV commercials featuring virtually unknown actors such as Tom Cruise and Jodie Foster who would eventually become household Hollywood names. 

That love for obscure ads would eventually lead to Fleiss’ first TV show pitch when he worked at Totally Hidden Video for the former head of Fox Television, Stephen Chao. Chao, who graduated from Harvard and once flipped burgers at McDonald’s, admired Fleiss’ ability to continuously generate new show ideas. It led to a green light for Mike Fleiss’ first show, Before They Were Stars. The clever clip parade featured advertisements with celebrities such as Sharon Stone and Jack Nicholson in their very first roles before they were considered stars.

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

“I had sort of monitored that over my childhood, seeing how people started,” Mike Fleiss says. “And so I thought, ‘Oh, it would be a fun little show to do.’”

The innovative writer and producer shares that the show aired on ABC in the early ’90s and for that time, it was a cutting-edge concept that was born from a game he’d play with TV-loving pals. “I’d show a clip and say, ‘Can you identify that person?’ So it had a game element to it too when you were watching it,” Fleiss explains. 

Although he now feels it wasn’t all that creative of a concept, he says despite having a bevy of ideas when he arrived in LA, that was the first one he actually sold. However, it was the start of something big. With multiple hit movies and documentaries under his belt, Mike Fleiss, who produced the Hostel trilogy of horror films, is excited about taking that thriller franchise from the big screen to a TV format. He says they have a one-of-a-kind approach to adapting it for the small screen. 

“I think it’s going to be really satisfying,” Mike Fleiss exclaims. “Eli Roth and Chris Briggs wrote the pilot script. It’s the same team that made the movies, and we think it’s a great brand.”

In addition to developing TV concepts, including more reality show franchises, Mike Fleiss has been spending his free time buying musical instruments for underprivileged kids and he’s satisfying his jalapeno habit with a restaurant he started in Lake Oswego, Oregon, called Toreados.

His passion for peppers burns just as hot as his love for creating binge-worthy TV. He says he discovered his taste for chiles toreados in Mexico and wanted to bring an authentic Tex-Mex experience to the States. 

“I’ve had this idea forever and ever and ever, and now it’s a dream come true,” Fleiss says of Toreados.

And when he’s not indulging in his hot pepper habit, he confesses he’s on the lookout for bears in his backyard. Yes, the Hollywood honcho lives in the same Montecito, California, “neigh-bear-hood” where Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other celebrities live — and the area’s been in headlines for bear sightings. 

“It’s a cute bear,” Fleiss says.

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