Jerry Weintraub: 1937-2015

Jerry Weintraub, the Emmy-winning film and TV producer whose life was celebrated in the 2011 HBO documentary, "His Way," co-produced by Alan and Gabe Polsky and directed by Douglas McGrath, died Monday, July 6th, of heart failure. He was 77. 

Weintraub's magnificent career in show business began with his work as a talent agent in the music industry. His clients included Elvis Presley, Bob Denver, The Moody Blues, Dolly Parton, Bob DylanThe Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and Frank Sinatra. He broke new ground by organizing what became the first large arena concert tours for singers. The first theatrical release Weintraub produced was Robert Altman's 1975 classic, "Nashville," followed two years later by Carl Reiner's "Oh God!," the picture that made Denver a movie star. Other key film producing credits include 1980's "Cruising," 1982's "Diner," 1984's "The Karate Kid," 2001's hugely successful remake of "Ocean's Eleven" and 2014's acclaimed documentary, "Red Army." His remake of "Tarzan" starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, is due for release next summer.

For a five-month period in 1985, Weintraub served as chairman and CEO of United Artists, before forming his own short-lived company, Weintraub Entertainment Group. He won Emmys for 1975's "An Evening with John Denver," 2013's "Behind the Candelabra" and 2014's "Years of Living Dangerously." He was also named Producer of the Year in 1986 by the National Association of Theater Owners and a member on the Kennedy Center board in 1991. And in 2007, he became one of the first independent film producers to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His 2010 memoir, "When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man," written with Rich Cohen, and the aforementioned film "His Way," provide an in-depth portrait of the man's distinctive charm, which led him to make a rich array of connections in both the political and Hollywood realms (he was a longtime friend of President George H.W. Bush). Among the impressive array of talent assembled in McGrath's documentary are Ellen Barkin, James Caan, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, Ralph Macchio, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis.

Weintraub is survived by his wife, Jane Morgan Weintraub; his longtime companion, Susan Ekins; his brother, Melvyn; four children and five grandchildren. 

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is an Assistant Editor at RogerEbert.com and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 


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