Robert Evans (producer)

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Robert Evans
RobertEvansHWOFJul2012.jpg
Evans in July 2012
Born Robert J. Shapera
(1930-06-29) June 29, 1930 (age 83)
New York City, New York, USA
Nationality American
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[edit]

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[edit]

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. After the huge critical and commercial success of the Evans-produced Chinatown, he stepped down as production chief, which enabled him to produce films on his own. He went on to produce such films as 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[edit]

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 his seventh wife, Victoria White O'Gara, while 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] and one grandson, Jackson, born in 2010 to Josh Evans and daughter-in-law Roxy Saint, a singer.[8]

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. Eszterhas's book The Devil's Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God includes an anecdote about Evans showing his appreciation for one of Eszterhas's scripts by sending him a woman with a "congratulatory note" inside her vagina.[9]

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."

Cocaine trafficking[edit]

Evans was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1980. He entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor in federal court after being arrested after engineering a large cocaine buy with his brother Charles. As part of his plea bargain, he filmed an anti-drug TV commercial.[10] The alleged drug dealing, which Evans continues to deny (the misdemeanor was later wiped from his record), came out of his own involvement to the drug. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a 1994 interview, "Bob 'Cocaine' Evans is how I'll be known to my grave." He claimed that he should never have been convicted of federal selling and distribution charges, as he was only a user.[11]

Cotton Club murder[edit]

Evans was introduced to the theatrical impresario Roy Radin, a producer of traveling musical and comedy revues, by cocaine dealer Karen Greenberger (aka Lanie Jacobs).[12] Radin was trying to break into the film industry with a movie about the legendary New York nightclub, the Cotton Club. Radin's financial situation was reportedly quite challenged due both to neglecting his live tours and reported drug-related situations. The deal arranged on the film The Cotton Club mandated that Evans and Radin establish a production company in which each would own 45% of the film with the remaining 10% split between two other parties.[13] Radin offered Greenberger (aka Jacobs) a $50,000 finders fee for her efforts which she found unsatisfactory.[14]

As The Cotton Club film financing was being arranged, the 33-year-old Radin was murdered in 1983. Contract killer William Mentzer was among four people sentenced for shooting Radin multiple times in the head and using dynamite to make identification by authorities more challenging.[15] At the trial, Karen Greenberger was convicted of second degree murder and kidnapping. Her involvement was said to be over a fear of being cut out of a producer's role and potential profiting in the Cotton Club movie. As a result, the murder court case of Radin was dubbed the Cotton Club Murder Trial.

Under the advice of his attorney Robert Shapiro, Evans refused to testify during a May 1989 preliminary hearing, invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself.[16] When he took the stand during the hearing and was asked if he knew Roy Radin, Evans invoked the fifth. The police reports that had been submitted to obtain search warrants indicated at least two witnesses said Evans was involved in the Radin murder.[17]

Greenberger testified during her 1991 trial that Evans was not involved in the murder. She also claimed during her trial that she had been Evans's lover.[18]

Evans as a character in film and theater[edit]

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.[19] 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!"[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.

Matthew McConaughey character in the 2009 film Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Connor 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[edit]

As Head of Production at Paramount[edit]

As Producer[edit]

Actor[edit]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Evans Biography ((?)-)
  2. ^ "Robert Evans biopic studies producer fated to the screen". 
  3. ^ Cieply, Michael (May 28, 2009). "James Toback Goes From Mike Tyson to John DeLorean". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 1, 2009). "HBO gets to work on 'Korshak'". Variety. 
  5. ^ a b Archerd, Army. "Evans and Oxenberg saying 'I do.'" Variety, July 1998. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  6. ^ Archerd, Army. "Evans and Oxenberg untie knot." Variety, July 1998. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  7. ^ People magazine, "Divorce No. 7 for Producer Robert Evans," June 19, 2006
  8. ^ Josh Evans - Biography - IMDb
  9. ^ "The Nerve Interview: Joe Eszterhas". Nerve.com. 2006-09-15. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  10. ^ Evans, Robert (1994). The Kid Stays in the Picture. Hyperion. p. 319. ISBN 978-0786860593. 
  11. ^ Rea, Steven (8 September 1994). "A Mogul's Moguls Life's Been A Bumpy Ride For Producer Robert Evans, Who Went, In His Words, From "Legend To Leper"; It's All In His New Book, Even The Part About His Getting In Touch With God". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  12. ^ "Jury Finds Four Guilty in 'Cotton Club' Murder Case." Sun-Sentinel, 23 July 1991.
  13. ^ Kasindorf, Jeanie. "The Cotton Club Murder". New York magazine, 24 July 1989, p. 27.
  14. ^ Daly, Michael. "The Making of Hollywood: A True Tale of Hollywood". New York Magazine, 7 May 1984, p. 47.
  15. ^ "'Cotton Club' Defendant Says Evans Not Involved : Trial". Los Angeles Times, 27 April 1991.
  16. ^ "Producer Evans Refuses to Testify". Associated Press, 13 May 1989
  17. ^ McDougal, Dennis. "Producer Robert Evans Invokes 5th at Hearing in Murder Case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "'Cotton Club' Defendant Says Evans Not Involved : Trial: The film producer had no role in Roy Radin's murder, woman testifies; She professes innocence and says Radin planned to kill her". Los Angeles Times. 27 April 1991. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Charles Champlin, 'Faltaff in King Hollywood's Court: An Interview Concerning "The Other Side of the Wind"', in Ronald Gottesman (ed.), Focus on Orson Welles (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1976) p.196
  20. ^ "Double Takes". Newsweek (The Washington Post Company). 1998-03-02. Retrieved 2008-10-17. [dead link]
  21. ^ Television News, Reviews and TV Show Recaps - HuffPost TV
  22. ^ Cieply, Michael (February 11, 2010). "A Hollywood Player Inspires a Broadway Play". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  23. ^ "The fat lady sang". Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2014-04-12.

External links[edit]