Robert Newmyer

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Robert Newmyer
Born (1956-05-30)May 30, 1956
Washington, D.C.
Died December 12, 2005(2005-12-12) (aged 49)
Toronto, Ontario

Robert F. Newmyer (May 30, 1956 – December 12, 2005) was a producer of numerous films, both commercial and independent.

On December 12, 2005, Newmyer died at the age of 49 in Toronto, Ontario from a heart attack while working out at a gym. He was in the city on an upcoming film shoot. Bobby Newmyer, 49, an independent producer who took a chance on a low-budget script that became the critically acclaimed and commercially successful "Sex, Lies and Videotape," died December 12 in Toronto, where he was for the filming of "Santa Clause 3," the sequel to the popular holiday comedies he produced starring Tim Allen.

Mr. Newmyer, a lifelong asthma sufferer, had a heart attack while working out in a health club, said his mother, Virginia "Ginger" Newmyer. He died in an ambulance on the way to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Among nearly 30 movies produced by his company, Outlaw Productions, in addition to "Sex, Lies and Videotape" (1989), were "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead" (1991), "The Santa Clause" (1994), "Don Juan DeMarco" (1995), "Training Day" (2001), "The Santa Clause 2" (2002) and "The Thing About My Folks" (2005). Denzel Washington won a best actor Oscar for his role in "Training Day."

In addition to "Santa Clause 3," two more of his movies are in postproduction: "Breach," a thriller about convicted spy Robert P. Hanssen, and "Phat Girlz," a romantic comedy starring Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson as a plus-size model who finds love, success and self-acceptance.

Robert Frederick Newmyer was born in the District and graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 1974. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College in 1978, with a degree in economics, and then worked for two years as a property developer, building homes and condominiums in Telluride, Colo. He received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1982.

On his way to a vacation in the South Pacific before plunging into the world of work, he ran into an old friend during a layover in Los Angeles. The friend, a vice president for finance at Columbia Pictures, was looking for an assistant, and Mr. Newmyer got the job—as a numbers cruncher, to be sure, but one with an eye for the promising script. He particularly liked romantic comedies.

Mr. Newmyer became vice president for production and acquisitions at Columbia in 1987, before leaving the next year to form the production company with partner Jeffrey Silver.

He had met Steven Soderbergh when the director brought a script to Columbia Pictures that the studio ultimately rejected.

"I loved Steven Soderbergh's writing," he said in a 2002 interview. "I'd never been able to persuade anyone to produce one of his scripts."

In 1988, after Mr. Newmyer formed Outlaw Productions, Soderbergh brought him another script, "Sex, Lies and Videotape."

"He had to scramble to find financing for it," said the producer's father, retired political consultant James Newmyer, even though it had a tiny budget of $1.1 million. Some potential investors, including family members, considered the movie pornographic. The offbeat title put them off as well. "Sex, Lies and Videotape" not only has become a catchphrase in the vernacular but also had nearly $25 million in box-office profits. The original "Santa Clause" has grossed more than $145 million in the United States.

His father noted that with "Phat Girlz," his son violated a cardinal rule of Hollywood finance: He financed the film himself.

As Bobby Newmyer explained to the New York Times this year, he really had no choice. Potential investors backed away after a couple of other so-called urban films aimed at black audiences were box-office disappointments.

Believing in the film, Mr. Newmyer sold his stocks and mortgaged his homes in Los Angeles and Telluride. "My wife and my kids are not all that thrilled about it," he said. "I do find it terrifying, and I would say, in waves, I am feeling, experiencing phenomenal stress for the past five or six months."

After Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the comedy, his company quoted him as saying, "I'll sleep through the night for the first time in 18 months."

Survivors include his wife of 19 years, Deborah Jelin Newmyer of Los Angeles; four children, Sofi, Teddy, James and Billi Newmyer, all of Los Angeles; his parents, of the District; and two sisters, Elsa Newmyer of the District and Lory Newmyer of Hull, Mass.

Filmography[edit]

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