Don Simpson

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Don Simpson
Born Donald Clarence Simpson
(1943-10-29)October 29, 1943
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Died January 19, 1996(1996-01-19) (aged 52)
Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Drug-related heart failure
Nationality American
Other names Donald C. Simpson
Education West Anchorage High School
Alma mater University of Oregon
Occupation Film producer, screenwriter, actor
Years active 1976–1996

Donald Clarence "Don" Simpson (October 29, 1943 – January 19, 1996) was an American film producer, screenwriter, and actor. Simpson, along with his producing partner Jerry Bruckheimer, produced such hit films as Flashdance (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Top Gun (1986), and The Rock (1996). Their films would go on to earn $3 billion worldwide.[1]

Early life[edit]

Simpson was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. He attended West Anchorage High School, and went on to attend the University of Oregon. After graduation, he moved to San Francisco where he worked for a theatrical advertising agency and did public relations for the First International Erotic Film Festival.[2]

Career[edit]

In the early 1970s, Simpson moved to Los Angeles and got a job marketing exploitation films for Warner Bros. In 1973, Simpson got a job at Paramount Pictures. While there, he co-wrote the 1976 film Cannonball, in which he also had a small role. By 1981, he was named president of production at Paramount.[2]

Simpson left Paramount in 1982 and forged a partnership with fellow producer Jerry Bruckheimer.[3] The two would go on to produce some of the most financially successful films of the 1980s: Flashdance (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Top Gun (1986) and Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). In 1985 and again in 1988, he and his producing partner, Jerry Bruckheimer, were named Producers of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners.

In 1990, Simpson and Bruckheimer signed a five-year deal with Paramount worth a reported $300 million. However, the duo's first film for Paramount, 1990's Days of Thunder, received mixed reviews and while it was successful, grossing $158 million over a $60 million budget, the box office performance wasn't what the duo was expecting. Simpson and Bruckheimer blamed Paramount for the film's performance stating that Paramount rushed the planning and release of the film, while Paramount blamed the film's performance on Simpson and Bruckheimer's overspending. The duo mutually parted with Paramount shortly thereafter.[4][5]

In 1991, the two signed with Disney. Their first film for Disney, The Ref (1994), was a financial flop. Their following films, Dangerous Minds, Crimson Tide, and Bad Boys, all released in 1995, brought the pair back to success.[4]

Drug use[edit]

As Simpson and Bruckheimer's success grew, so did Simpson's reputation for being a brash "party animal". He had been taking cocaine since the 1980s but his usage increased over the years. His excessive spending (in both films and his personal life) and erratic moods caused by his drug use were well known within the Hollywood industry by the 1990s. According to screenwriter James Toback, both David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg had attempted to get Simpson to go to rehab for his drug use.[4]

Simpson refused to admit himself into a traditional rehab facility and instead employed Dr. Stephen Ammerman, a doctor from Pacific Palisades who had a history of drug abuse. Ammerman believed that in order for Simpson to quit drugs, he had to use other drugs to combat the effects of painful withdrawal symptoms. Ammerman designed a "dangerously unorthodox" detox program, which included the use of several medications (including morphine), for Simpson to do at home to kick his drug habit.[6] On August 15, 1995, Ammerman was found dead in the pool house on Simpson's estate. It was later determined that Ammerman died of an accidental overdose of cocaine, Valium, Venlafaxine and morphine.[7]

Frustrated with Simpson's escalating drug use and declining work, Jerry Bruckheimer terminated their partnership in December 1995. The two agreed to finish work on The Rock, which was already in production.[8] The Rock was released after Simpson's death and is dedicated to his memory.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Simpson was never married.[2] His personal life has been documented in a number of sources. A chapter in the book You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again (which describes four prostitutes' stories about their sexual encounters with Hollywood celebrities) discusses his preferences for S & M.[10]

Death[edit]

On January 19, 1996, Simpson was found dead in his bathroom of his Bel Air, Los Angeles home.[11] His death was initially reported as "natural". An autopsy and toxicology report later determined that Simpson had died of heart failure from combined drug intoxication (cocaine and prescription medications). At the time of his death, there were 21 different drugs in his system including antidepressants, stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. In August 1996, investigative reporter Chuck Philips of The Los Angeles Times revealed that Simpson had been obtaining large quantities of prescription drugs from 15 different doctors and that police found 2,200 prescription pills in his home.[6][12][13]

A 1998 book by journalist Charles Fleming reported that Simpson's prescription drug expenses were over $60,000 a month at the time of his death.[14]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Aloha, Bobby and Rose
Writer, uncredited
1976 Cannonball Assistant District Attorney Writer
Credited as Donald C. Simpson
1983 Flashdance
Producer
1984 Beverly Hills Cop
Producer
1984 Thief of Hearts
Producer
1986 Top Gun
Producer
1987 Beverly Hills Cop II
Producer
1990 Days of Thunder Aldo Bennedetti Producer
1994 The Ref
Executive producer
1995 Bad Boys
Producer
1995 Crimson Tide
Producer
1995 Dangerous Minds
Producer
1996 The Rock
Producer

Quotes[edit]

  • "To make money, it may be important to win the Academy Award, for it might mean another ten million dollars at the box office."[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Disney Extends Bruckheimer Deal". latimes.com. May 2, 1997. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Thomson, David (April 7, 1996). "I'm Don Simpson; And You're Not". independent.co.uk. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  3. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (February 22, 1996). "Don Simpson passes away". ew.com. p. 1. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (February 22, 1996). "Don Simpson passes away". ew.com. p. 2. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ Citron, Alan (January 18, 1991). "'Top Gun' Producers, Disney Sign Deal". latimes.com. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Philips, Chuck (August 18, 1996). "Don Simpson's Death Showed Depth of Abuse". latimes.com. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ Philips, Chuck; Hall, Carla (February 6, 1996). "Narcotics Unit Probes Don Simpson's Death". latimes.com. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (February 22, 1996). "Don Simpson passes away". ew.com. p. 3. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  9. ^ Turan, Kenneth (August 7, 1996). "Between a 'Rock' and Loud Place". latimes.com. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Don Simpson: Hollywood Death". movieline.com. January 6, 1996. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ Pace, Eric (January 21, 1996). "Don Simpson Is Dead at 52; Produced Blockbuster Films". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2009. 
  12. ^ Shipman, David (January 23, 1996). "Obituary: Don Simpson". independent.co.uk. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  13. ^ Philips, Chuck; Malnic, Eric (March 17, 1996). "Autopsy Finds Don Simpson Died of Overdose". latimes.com. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  14. ^ Fleming, Charles (1998). High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess. Doubleday. p. 9. ISBN 0-385-48694-4. 
  15. ^ Levy, Shawn (December 1999). "The Innovators 1980-1990: Jock of Gold". Sight & Sound. Archived from the original on 24 April 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 

External links[edit]