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Robert Evans (film producer)

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Robert Evans (film producer)

Robert Evans
Evans in July 2012
Born Robert J. Shapera
(1930-06-29) June 29, 1930 (age 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Film producer, studio executive
Years active 1950s–present
Spouse(s) Sharon Hugueny (1961–1962; divorced)
Camilla Sparv (1964–1967; divorced)
Ali MacGraw (1969–1973; divorced)
Phyllis George (1977–1978; divorced)
Catherine Oxenberg (1998; annulled)
Leslie Ann Woodward (2002–2004; divorced)
Lady Victoria White (2005–2006; divorced)
Children Josh Evans (b. 1971)

Robert Evans (born June 29, 1930) is an American film producer and former studio executive, best known for his work on Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Godfather, and Chinatown.

Early life and acting career

Evans was born Robert J. Shapera in New York City, New York, the son of Florence, a housewife who came from a wealthy family, and Archie Shapera, a dentist in Harlem.[1] He grew up on New York City's Upper West Side during the 1930s, where he was better off than most people living during the Great Depression. In his early years, he did promotional work for Evan-Picone, a fashion company founded by his brother Charles, in addition to doing voice work on radio shows.

He was spotted by actress Norma Shearer next to the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel on Election Day, 1956. She successfully touted him for the role of her late husband Irving Thalberg in Man of a Thousand Faces. The same year, Evans also caught the eye of Darryl F. Zanuck, who cast him as Pedro Romero in the 1957 film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, against the wishes of co-star Ava Gardner and Hemingway himself.[2] In 1959, he appeared in Twentieth Century Fox's production of The Best of Everything with Hope Lange, Diane Baker, and Joan Crawford.

Career as producer

Dissatisfied with his own acting talent, he was determined to become a producer. He got his start as head of production at Paramount by purchasing the rights to a 1966 novel titled The Detective which Evans made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Robert Duvall and Jacqueline Bisset, in 1968. Peter Bart, a writer for The New York Times, wrote an article about Evans’ aggressive production style. This got Evans noticed by Charles Bluhdorn, who was head of the Gulf+Western conglomerate, and hired Evans as part of a shakeup at Paramount Pictures.

When Evans took over as head of production for Paramount, the foundering studio was the ninth largest. Despite his inexperience, Evans was able to turn the studio around. He made Paramount the most successful studio in Hollywood and transformed it into a very profitable enterprise for Gulf+Western. During his tenure at Paramount, the studio turned out films such as Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Rosemary's Baby, The Italian Job, True Grit, Love Story, Harold and Maude, The Godfather, Serpico, Save the Tiger, The Conversation, The Great Gatsby, and many others.

Dissatisfied with his financial compensation and desiring to produce films under his own banner, Evans struck a deal with Paramount that enabled him to stay on as studio head while also working as an independent producer. Other producers at Paramount felt this gave Evans an unfair advantage. Eventually Evans stepped down, which enabled him to produce films on his own. He went on to produce such films as Chinatown, Marathon Man, Black Sunday, Popeye, Urban Cowboy, The Cotton Club, The Two Jakes, Sliver, Jade, The Phantom, The Saint, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Evans continues to produce, although the last film that he produced was released in 2003. He also produced and provided the voice for his eponymous character in the animated series Kid Notorious. Evans currently hosts the Sirius Satellite Radio show In Bed with Robert Evans.

Evans is currently in development on a film about the life of iconic auto executive John DeLorean. Brett Ratner is attached to direct and James Toback is currently writing the screenplay.[3] In addition, an HBO miniseries titled The Devil and Sidney Korshak is being developed with writer Art Monterastelli adapting.[4]

Personal life

Evans has been married seven times but none of his marriages have lasted more than three years. His first was to Sharon Hugueny (1961–1962). After his first divorce came Camilla Sparv (1964–1967), Ali MacGraw (1969–1973), Phyllis George (1977–1978), Catherine Oxenberg (1998),[5] Leslie Ann Woodward (2002–2004), and Victoria White (2005–2006). Evans' marriage to Oxenberg was annulled after nine days.[6] He married White in Mexico on August 2005 shortly after his 75th birthday. She filed for divorce on June 16, 2006, citing irreconcilable differences.[7] In the film adaptation of the autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture, only Ali MacGraw is discussed, and their relationship is discussed at length. Evans has one son, Josh Evans, also a producer, from his marriage to MacGraw.[5]

Joe Eszterhas repeatedly describes his friend, Evans, as "the devil" in his book, Hollywood Animal, and says that "all lies ever told anywhere about Robert Evans are true." His autobiography also goes into detail about a cocaine addiction that plagued Evans in the 1980s.

Meredith Rhule, his personal in-home movie projectionist, indicates that Evans knows how to impress potential movie backers. "I have seen almost every movie star, top models, heads of studios and heads of states walk into his home. Bob Evans is the Godfather of Hollywood."

Evans as a character in film and theater

Actors have admitted imitating Evans's distinctive mannerisms.

Orson Welles' unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind (1970–6), a scathing satire on 1970s Hollywood, has a young studio boss "Max David" played by Geoffrey Land, who Welles admitted was a spoof of Evans.[8] While the film as a whole has never been released, certain scenes have, and numerous well-known internet video sites carry a scene of Land's performance, in which he is skeptically watching an unfinished arthouse film.

In the 1997 movie Wag the Dog, a Washington, D.C. spin doctor distracts the electorate from a U.S. presidential sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood producer played by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman's character was based directly upon Robert Evans. Hoffman emulated Evans' work habits, mannerisms, quirks, clothing style, hairstyle, and his large square-framed eyeglasses. The real Evans is said to have declared, "I'm magnificent in this film!"[9]

Bob Ryan, a recurring character in the HBO series Entourage is based on Evans. The character, portrayed by Martin Landau, was a successful movie producer in the 1970s who now chafes at no longer being considered a major Hollywood player. While Evans reportedly declined an offer to play the part himself, he did agree to allow his home to be used in the show as Bob Ryan's home.

Evans similarly served as the inspiration for a Mr. Show sketch, in which Bob Odenkirk portrays God recording his memoirs, dressed as and speaking like Evans. Odenkirk also attributes Evans as his primary influence on his portrayal of lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad.[10]

Smuggler Films has acquired the stage rights to Evans' memoirs, The Kid Stays in the Picture and its sequel, The Fat Lady Sang, which will be published in conjunction with the debut of the play. Award-winning director Sir Richard Eyre is set to direct with Jon Robin Baitz, in place to pen the stage play.[11]

Evans plays himself in the movie An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn (1998). His "character", like those of other real-life personages in the film, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan, comprises parodical exaggerations of his personality traits.

He likewise voices a fictionalised caricature of himself in the animated series, Kid Notorious, alongside his real-life butler, Alan "English" Selka, and next-door neighbor, Saul "Slash" Hudson.

Michael Douglas' character in the 2009 film Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Wayne Mead, is an obvious parody of Evans, capitalizing on his well known hair, glasses, style of dress and reputation as a ladies' man who frequently entertained celebrity performers.

Evans also appears in the Bruce Campbell novel Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, with Bruce impersonating him to infiltrate the Paramount Studios lot.

Filmography

As Head of Production at Paramount

As Producer

Actor

Publications

References

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Robert Evans web show on JumpBoxTV
  • profile on Robert Evans, published March 7, 1969
  • Robert Evans Official Site The official site of legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans

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