Jerry Weintraub, a Hollywood legend who worked with everyone from Led Zeppelin to George Clooney over the course of his storied career, has died. A colorful personality, Weintraub was reportedly in poor health in recent years; Deadline cites a heart attack as his cause of death. He was 77.
Born into a working-class family in New York, Weintraub worked his way up through the Hollywood system the old-fashioned way. Beginning with a job in the William Morris Agency mailroom, he was promoted first to assistant agent, then to agent, before branching off on his own into a music management business whose clients reportedly included John Denver, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, and Led Zeppelin. As a concert promoter, he helped revive Frank Sinatra’s career in the late ’60s and worked with Elvis Presley and his manager, the notorious “Colonel” Tom Parker.
In the ’70s, Weintraub decided to try his hand as a movie producer; beginning with a duo of concert documentaries featuring his clients Sinatra (1974’s Frank Sinatra: The Main Event) and John Denver (An Evening With John Denver), Weintraub then signed on as an executive producer for Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville. That, and the George Burns comedy hit Oh, God! (1977), established Weintraub as a feature-film producer, and over the next half-decade he produced William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980) and Barry Levinson’s Diner, (1982), among other feature films and documentaries.
The Karate Kid (1984) was a sleeper hit for Weintraub, prompting MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian to put him in charge of his United Artists unit. The two men—both reportedly strong characters—were immediately at odds, however, and Weintraub left after a few months to form the Weintraub Entertainment Group in 1987. Three years later, that company—which produced such films as My Stepmother Is An Alien and Troop Beverly Hills—was also bankrupt, and Weintraub moved to Warner Bros., where he produced films like The Specialist with Al Pacino.
Weintraub’s career dipped in the late ’90s with a few misses, like the big-screen Avengers movie starring Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes in 1998. But Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven brought Weintraub back to the top of the Hollywood A-list, and he would go on to produce both of the Ocean’s sequels, the 2010 Karate Kid remake, and several other films and TV movies. Despite his declining health, Weintraub continued working until the end; the newest film version of Tarzan and HBO’s Westworld series, both of which he produced, are still in post-production, and he also served as executive producer of the HBO comedy The Brink, which began its first season on June 21.
In 2011, HBO produced a documentary on Weintraub, His Way. The trailer is below. He also published a memoir, When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From A Persuasive Man, in 2010.