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David Geffen reflects on avoiding reflecting

“I really don’t reflect on my career, or I don’t like to talk about myself,” says Geffen.

PBS

“I really don’t reflect on my career, or I don’t like to talk about myself,” says Geffen.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — David Geffen is a big fan of PBS’s “American Masters” series, including installments dedicated to
Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein. But the media mogul — involved in phenonenal successes across music, TV, film, and Broadway — told the producers, “I don’t think I fit into this category” when they approached him. They disagreed.

The famously press-shy Geffen met with TV reporters here to offer succinct answers about “Inventing David Geffen.” The two-hour documentary, which includes dozens of interviews with everyone from Tom Hanks to Rahm Emanuel to Calvin Klein, premieres on Channel 2, Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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Q. Are you more motivated by the successes that you’ve had or the failures?

A. Well, I always think that failure is a great motivator for future successes, but there is no success without failure.

Q. What was the touchstone for you? Why were you driven?

A. Meet my mother.

Q, What do you think some of the challenges would be if you were starting out as a music producer or an executive today?

A. I would kill myself. You know, when I was a kid, I wanted to play guitar and be in a band. I think if you’re growing up today, I think you’re not as focused on the music business as you are in trying to be a programmer.

Q. There were people you passed on as a record exec, but did anyone ever say no to David Geffen?

A. Of course. There were many. I wanted REM. They went with Warner Bros. I can’t think of which ones. But there are many. It’s not about the ones that say no. It’s about the ones that say yes. Your life isn’t made up of the people who aren’t in it.

Q. In doing the film and looking back over your professional accomplishments is there something that you view with particular pride?

A. I’m proud of all of the things I’ve done. I look back on it, particularly in seeing this film, and I think, “Wow, you did all of that.” I don’t tend to think about the past. I think about what I’m doing now. I really don’t reflect on my career, or I don’t like to talk about myself. I avoid it as much as possible. And when I saw the film, I thought, “Wow.” I was impressed.

Q. Did you learn anything about yourself while making the film?

A. You watch yourself get old and bald, it’s a sobering experience.

Interview has been edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe
.com
. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
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