27 April 1933|
9 June 2017 (aged 84)|
New York City, New York
Norma Parnell Heyman (m. ?-?)|
Nizza 2017 (m. 1982)
Early life and family
Heyman was born in Leipzig to German-Jewish parents. His father, an economist and broadcaster who opposed Hitler, fled Germany on 30 January 1933. The seven-month-old John and his mother joined him that November in London, where his father had secured work as a journalist on the now defunct News Chronicle. During World War II, his father worked for the Ministry of Information and was naturalised British in the national interest. After the war he was the financial correspondent for The Economist, The Times of London, and Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He died at his typewriter putting the final 'full stop' on a leader column for the Times, which was published two days after his death. John's mother, an avid suffragette, was both a teacher of Russian studies and a permanent student, collecting her seventh degree (in Economics) from the London School of Economics at the age of 70.
Education and early career
After two years of National Service in the Army, Heyman returned to Oxford to read law. During a summer vacation, he obtained free tickets to a Radio Luxembourg show. Having been chosen as a contestant he won £93, more money than he thought existed in the world, and he returned to Oxford as the question writer for the show Double Your Money, which would run in the top ten for thirteen years on the new Independent Television Network in England. He also sold a number of other television concepts. In 1955 Heyman started full-time work in the entertainment industry and by the age of 22 was Head of Public Relations at Associated Television, one of the two founder companies of the ITV. By then he was working on five of the network’s television programs, three of which were rated among ITV’s top ten.
In 1959 Heyman formed The International Artists Agency, which represented, among others, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Laurence Harvey, Trevor Howard, Shirley Bassey, and Burt Bacharach.
In 1961 the agency formed the subsidiary World Film Sales, the first company to pre-sell and license pictures on a territory-by-territory basis. World Film Sales was sold to ITC in 1973. It was the first of a series of companies which would become the World Group of Companies Limited. For over 40 years, the company and its executives have been producers, packagers, co-financiers, investors, or distributors of films that have garnered numerous awards, including more than 150 Academy Award nominations and more than two dozen Oscars.
In 1963 Heyman started to work as a film producer and has to date produced some 15 films, among them The Go-Between and The Hireling, which both won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. He co-financed a further 150 films. In 1964 he also co-produced the longest running Hamlet in Broadway history, starring Richard Burton and directed by John Gielgud. In 1965 Heyman produced Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, starring Hermione Gingold in London’s West End.
In 1973 he founded The Genesis Project to create an audio-visual encyclopaedia, atlas, and dictionary. It commenced translating the Bible onto film accompanied by a variety of educational materials. After completing the filming of Genesis and the Gospel of Luke (which, under the title Jesus, became the most viewed film in history), The New Media Bible was sold to an evangelical organisation, having failed commercially in the age before VHS or DVD.
In the early 1970s, Heyman began to render financial services to major film studios, and is widely credited with creating "structured financing" in the film industry. As a result of his efforts, some $4 billion has been provided to co-finance more than 150 films and television programs, including Awakenings (Columbia), Black Rain (Paramount), Chinatown (Paramount), Edward Scissorhands (Fox), Grease (Paramount), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (Warner), Heaven Can Wait (Paramount), Home Alone (Fox), Looking For Mr Goodbar (Paramount), The Man Who Would Be King (Allied Artists), Marathon Man (Paramount), The Odessa File (Columbia), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Fox), Saturday Night Fever (Paramount), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Paramount), Trail of the Pink Panther (MGM), and Victor/Victoria (MGM).
In 1990 Heyman co-founded Island World, which produced and licensed film and television programs, including The Cure (Universal), Eddie (Disney), Juice (Paramount), The Sandlot (Fox), Toy Soldiers (Tri-Star), Airheads (Fox), and The War (Universal). Island World was sold to PolyGram at the end of 1994, but Heyman retained control of the London television production company World Productions Limited. It became an active provider of British television programming in partnership with Tony Garnett, and was the only company to have had programs airing on all five UK terrestrial channels in the same year. The company received a special award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts "acknowledging the nurturing of a whole new generation of writers, actors and producers and in bringing new blood and new talent into the industry." The company was sold in 2012.
Heyman's World Group of Companies Limited continues to actively produce and co-finance films and television shows. At the time of his death, he was in pre-production on a number of projects including a Sino-Italian co-production of a 12-hour mini-series titled The Forbidden City, a film titled The Silk Road, and television projects, including You the Jury, Forbidden Lovers, and a contemporary drama based on modern versions of the biblical Parables and Proverbs.
Personal life and death
Heyman was married twice, first to producer Norma Heyman. He was married to his second wife Nizza from 1982 to 2017.
He had five children: David, a film producer (eight Harry Potter films, Yes Man, Juice, I Am Legend, Meet the Millers, Gravity, Paddington, etc.); Lil, partner in a concierge firm; Gabrielle, an executive at Zynga; Dahlia, who won the screen-writing Golden Globe in Italy for her first film and is a vice president at World Film Group; and Daniel, an entrepreneur with interests in Third World countries.
Heyman died on 9 June 2017 at the age of 84.
- "John Heyman". IMDB. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- "The "Jesus" film: A contribution to World evangelism. | Goliath Business News". Goliath.ecnext.com. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- Heyman inks $ 200 mil pact with Babelsberg Variety, 15 July 1993
- "World Productions, creators of Lilies, Goldplated, Rough Diamond and This Life for UK Television". World-productions.com. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
- Producer John Heyman Has Died At Age 84