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Tributes are paid to film producer Saul Zaentz

Tributes are paid to film producer Saul Zaentz

TRIBUTES have been paid to the award-winning film producer Saul Zaentz who has passed away at the age of 92.

Mr. Zaentz was in his 50s by the time he became involved in the movie business but quickly established himself as one of the major players when he won a best picture Oscar for one of his first films — One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest (1975), see below.

Before turning to films, Mr. Zaentz had enjoyed success in the record business. He had worked for Fantasy Records, which was mostly known for jazz, before buying the company and setting about expanding the company. He very soon displayed the ability to spot new talent and winning propositions that he would eventually bring to his career in movies.

One of the first new bands that he signed to his record label was an unknown country rock group who called themselves The Golliwogs. Mr. Zaentz told the band to find a new name. They decided to call themselves Credence Clearwater Revival before going on to sell more than 5 million records.

In 1968, Mr. Zaentz decided to option the rights to the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest, believing it could be made into a movie. It was to take several years, and lots of his own money, to get the movie into production with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. He joined forces to co-produce the film with Michael Douglas. 

As well as the best picture Oscar, the movie also won several other Academy Awards — best actor for Nicholson, best actress for Louise Fletcher and best director for Milos Forman.

Mr. Zaentz went on to share best picture Oscars for two more of his films — Amadeus (1984), see below, and The English Patient (1996), see below. He also received the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1997.

His other film credits included Mosquito Coast (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and Goya’s Ghosts (2005).

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Zaentz obtained the rights J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Lord of the Rings. He produced an animated version of the book in 1978, but his investment delivered a substantial return when he granted an option to the work in the late 1990s, opening the way for the what would become the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The films, directed by Peter Jackson, have grossed more than $2.9 billion.

Throughout his career in records and films, Mr. Zaentz had a reputation for being litigious.

He passed away at his home in the San Francisco area and is survived by his children Dorian, Joshua, Athena and Jonnie and his seven grandchildren.

To view a clip from One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest, click here.

To view a clip from Amadeus, click here.

To see an excerpt from The English Patient, click here.

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