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“Midnight Cowboy” Producer, “Coming Home” Was 92 – Deadline

Jerome Hellman, the producer of landmark films such as Midnight Cowboy and Go home is dead. The Oscar-winning actor’s wife, Elizabeth Empleton Hellman, confirmed Hellman’s passing on May 26 by simply saying, “We will miss him terribly.” He was 92 years old.

Hellman’s films helped define the ‘new Hollywood’ of the 1970s. He tended to work repeatedly with a circle of prominent collaborators, and the films produced by Hellman came from iconic directors such as John Schlesinger, Hal Ashby. , George Roy Hill, Irvin Kershner and Peter Weir.

That Hellman would win Best Picture for Schlesinger Midnight Cowboy in 1970 was unlikely to say the least. Hellman was going through a difficult divorce. The film was based on a little-known novel. Schlesinger didn’t think Dustin Hoffman was right to play Ratso Rizzo. But Hellman fought for the Diploma actor. Additionally, the film was rated X and dealt with homosexuality, prostitution, and a slice of America rarely seen on the big screen.

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But the timing was right, and the low-budget masterpiece won big box office returns and three Oscars, including Hellman’s Best Picture, Director for Schlesinger and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another. support for Waldo Salt.

“I was so sure we weren’t going to win that I didn’t even prepare a speech,” Hellman Told Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times in 2005. “I probably only said 10 words. It was to be the shortest speech in Oscar history. I didn’t thank John [Schlesinger] or the actors or my mother or my father.

Schlesinger did not take it personally. In 1975, he returned to Hellman for an adaptation of Nathaniel West’s great Hollywood novel, Grasshopper Day, with Donald Sutherland, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith. This film was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Meredith.

Hellman has struck gold again with his next pic, Go home. The film directed by Hal Ashby was a success both critically and commercially. As Midnight Cowboy, it was produced on a modest budget – estimated at $ 3 million – and delivered $ 32 million at the box office. As Midnight Cowboy, he seemed to capture the zeitgeist with his story of a military wife (Jane Fonda), who falls in love with a wheelchair-bound Vietnam War veteran (Jon Voight) whom she meets while her husband (Bruce Dern) is deployed to Vietnam. As Midnight Cowboy, the film won three Oscars, including Best Actor, Actress and Best Screenplay, a screenplay written directly for the screen, shared in part by Midnight Cowboy Waldo Salt collaborator. Hellman also received a nomination for Best Picture for the film.

The producer followed that success with his directorial debut. Promises in the dark was supposed to be another reunion with Schlesinger, but when the director fell out and the project languished, Hellman himself took the reins. The film became one of the first of Orion Pictures. Like all Hellman Projects, the film had a stellar cast, including Marsha Mason, Ned Beatty, and Susan Clark, but it was not well received. Vincent Canby of the New York Times called him “Written, directed and played in a tasteless way”. It was six years before Hellman made another movie.

This next project was based on the novel by Paul Theroux, Mosquito Coast – topic which has recently been revisited as an Apple + series. Hellman reportedly bought the rights to the novel as soon as it was published in 1981. Jack Nicholson was initially offered the lead role, but declined. Funding for the film also fell.

As Hellman looked to re-energize the project, Weir went to do Witness with Harrison Ford, whose interest was sparked by the project. Hellman then found funding through Saul Zaentz and distribution through Warner Bros.

The film had no critical or financial success, but, like another film starring Ford of the 1980s – Blade runner – his stock has increased.

Importantly, the film included the latest big-screen performance of Butterfly McQueen, who won an Oscar for Blown away by the wind in 1940. It was also the last film produced by another Oscar winner Heller.

His other production credits include George Roy Hill’s The world of Henri Orient in 1964, and that of Irvin Kershner A beautiful madness in 1966.

Heller’s only role as an actor came in the 1979 Ashby classic. Be there alongside Peter Sellars who had played 15 years earlier in Heller’s production debut, Henri Orient.

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