Robert Evans, the protean Hollywood producer and former Paramount Pictures production chief who backed such seminal 1970s films as “Chinatown,” ”The Godfather” and “Harold and Maude,” has died. He was 89 anni.
Publicist, Monique Moss, confirmed that Bob died Saturday. No other details Monday are immediately available.
Some lore: Bob Evans and his brother Charles had launched a successful women’s clothing line and was visiting Los Angeles on business when actress Norma Shearer saw him sunbathing by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She persuaded producers to hire the handsome, dark-haired 26-year-old to play her late husband, movie mogul Irving Thalberg, in “Man of a Thousand Faces,” a film about horror movie star Lon Chaney.
Bob then emerged at Paramount and quickly converted the studio from a maker of mediocre films to the biggest hit machine in Hollywood, home to “The Godfather” and “Love Story” among others.
For decades, and ever-tanned he was one of Hollywood’s most outsized personalities, encapsulating the romance of a now bygone movie era where films were Greenlit more on instinct than market research.
Bob was married and divorced 7 times. He was the model for Dustin Hoffman’s Hollywood producer in the Y 1997 satire “Wag the Dog.”
“The higher you get, the lower you can fall,” he mused in a Y 2003 interview. “You pick yourself up at the count of 9, you come back and win and be done with it. I believe in being a survivor.”
The title of his memoir, “The Kid Stays in the Picture“, later turned into a 2002 documentary, came from an early story of his success.
After Bob appeared in “Man of a Thousand Faces” Darryl Zanuck signed him to a contract at Twentieth Century Fox and cast him as a bullfighter in “The Sun Also Rises.” The filmmakers insisted the young actor was not right for the role, so Mr. Zanuck went to Mexico City, where the film was being made, to see for himself, and said, “The kid stays in the picture.”
It was Robert Evans who optioned “The Godfather” while Mario Puzo was writing it. As Paramount’s chief, he presided over Francis Ford Coppola’s production.
Francis Ford Coppola, recalled Bob fondly Monday, recollecting the producer’s “charm, good looks, enthusiasm, style and sense of humor.“
“He had strong instincts as evidenced by the long list of great films in his career. When I worked with Bob, some of his helpful ideas included suggesting John Marley as Woltz and Sterling Hayden as the Police Captain, and his ultimate realization that ‘The Godfather’ could be 2 hours and 45 minutes in length,” said Mr. Coppola.
Robert Evans was born Robert J. Shapera in New York, the 2nd son of Archie Shapera, a dentist, and his wife, Florence, a homemaker. He began acting in radio while in junior high school, going on to appear in more than 300 shows.
After “The Sun Also Rises,” he left Hollywood to join his brother in the clothing business, but was lured back in Y 1966 when Mr. Zanuck offered him a 3-picture contract as a producer. That same year Paramount Pictures hired him to head production.
From Ys 1966 to 1974 he presided over such hits as “The Odd Couple,” ”Rosemary’s Baby” and “Goodbye, Columbus.” He was a pivotal figure not only restoring Paramount but in a halcyon period of auteur-driven moviemaking, backed storied directors including Sidney Lumet, Hal Ashby and Peter Bogdanovich.
Al Ruddy, who won an Oscar as producer of “The Godfather,” credited Bob with filling an essential role in the picture’s success. When Paramount’s head of distribution objected to the nearly 3-hour running time, Bob backed up the filmmakers and insisted that the movie not be cut.
“He said, ‘I’ll quit before I cut the movie,'” Al Ruddy said Monday. “He saved the movie.”
After short marriages to actresses Sharon Hugueny and Camilla Sparv, he married Ali MacGraw, who became a star with her performance in “Goodbye, Columbus.” She gave birth to Evans’ only child, Joshua.
Then Ms. MacGraw became a superstar after “Love Story,” then went off to Texas to spend 4 months making “The Getaway” with Steve McQueen, and had 1 of Hollywood’s more notable affairs. Ali and Bob divorced in Y 1972 and he married former Miss America Phyllis George in Y 1977. They divorced a year later.
Meanwhile, Evans had formed his own production company, and turned out one of the biggest hits of Y 1974, Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.” It earned him an Oscar nomination.
Then came a frame of failures including Coppola’s “The Cotton Club,” and the “Chinatown” sequel “The Two Jakes” and the thrillers “Sliver” and “Jade.”
He had a near-fatal setback in Y 1998 when he suffered a stroke in a Hollywood screening room.
“A bolt of lightning shot through my body,” he told a reporter later. “I thought I had died. I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing ‘It’s a Wonderful World.'”
Bob underwent a tough rehab, but still found time for his 5th wedding. The marriage barely lasted longer than the couple’s 5-day courtship. “My fault,” Bob said afterward. “My brain was not working right.“
Wedding #6 happened in Y 2002. The bride was Leslie Ann Woodward, a model and actress. Divorce followed a little more than a year later.
Then, in 2005, Bob married Lady Victoria White, a socialite 33 years his junior. At the time he had just finished his 2nd memoir, “The Fat Lady Sang,” and he told Time magazine that with this marriage, “I finally found the last chapter.” But he and Lady White divorced, in Y 2006.
Bob’s last movie as a hands-on producer with Christine Peters was a hit: the 2003 romantic comedy “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.“
“…the problem with today’s business,” Bob told the LA-T’s in Y 2002. “It is not an art form, it’s a barter form. The studios are run by committees of MBAs, but I have never seen an MBA who knows how to make people cry.”