He hasn't produced a film since, but he has good reason. Actually, two.
"When you have a couple of kids," he said, "you realize traveling six months every year, making a film, takes you away from them."
In 1995, this realization drove him back to his old job, president of theatrical marketing at Fox. It's a job that has had him involved in scores of other films, and while he may not have "made" them, he certainly helped to make many of them hits, none bigger than "Independence Day" in 1996.
Now, Mr. Harper has been promoted to president of worldwide marketing for Fox Filmed Entertainment, overseeing marketing for all content churned out by the Fox entertainment machine, except TV. That includes home video, licensing and merchandising, music and other Fox film labels, such as Fox Searchlight Pictures.
"What we're looking for is a steady look for each movie and every ancillary use of the picture," said Mr. Harper.
Mr. Harper said his promotion won't lead to any changes in the existing management structure.
FOSTERING HARD WORK
"One thing I want to keep alive is an independent nature that makes people work harder and work together and have a feeling of ownership in what they do here," said Mr. Harper.
What the move also does, he said, is alleviate the heavy workload of Bill Mechanic, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment.
"This makes room for Bill not to have to follow everything so thoroughly," said Mr. Harper.
In recent years, Mr. Harper has proved himself a multifaceted marketer. Under his direction, potentially tough sells found sizable audiences, such as the hiply postmodern but Bard-loyal "Romeo & Juliet" and the critically acclaimed African-American "Soul Food."
"The marketplace has changed because of the number of pictures that are released nationally each year. There's no such thing as a space in the year with no competition," he said. "You have to work harder to separate your picture from other pictures and create an image that positions your film as an event -- if not to a general audience, then to a targeted audience."
Most in Hollywood point to "Independence Day" as Fox's biggest marketing achievement under Mr. Harper's leadership. The strategy -- using a mix of media, promotions and publicity over a long time, keeping the buzz constant and positioning new marketing developments (revealing the alien on the cover of Time, using a new trailer) as entertainment events themselves -- is now seen as the model for '90s blockbuster marketing.
Mr. Harper, 42, began his career at Fox in 1985 and has held many jobs, including VP-creative advertising and VP-production. In 1991, he left the post of president of marketing to set up Featherstone Productions at Fox.
Will he ever return to making movies?
"Eventually, but there's no itch in me right now," said Mr. Harper. Besides, his kids still like "Rookie of the Year."