Robert Evans, Chinatown producer, dies at 89

Source BBC

Robert Evans, the larger-than-life producer and studio executive whose films included Chinatown and The Cotton Club, has died at the age of 89.

The former actor, whose seven wives included actress Ali McGraw, authored an autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, that itself inspired a film.

As head of production of Paramount, he was key to the making of the first two films in the Godfather series.

His other credits include Urban Cowboy and the notorious 1980 flop Popeye.

Born Robert J Shapera in 1930, Evans started out as an actor and was cast as a bullfighter in 1957’s The Sun Also Rises.

Robert Evans with Ali McGraw circa 1970
Evans and Ali McGraw married in 1969 and divorced in 1973

He went on to become head of production at Paramount, overseeing such hits as Rosemary’s Baby and Love Story.

“The producer is the most important element of a film,” he once declared. “He’s on a film for four or five years and gets very little credit for it.”

His death was confirmed by his publicist Monique Moss, who said the Evans family had yet to issue a statement.

McGraw, who married Evans in 1969 before leaving him for the actor Steve McQueen, said he would be “remembered as a giant”.

Robert Evans with Ava Gardner in 1957
As an actor, his co-stars included the glamorous Ava Gardner. [GETTY]

“We are so very proud of his enormous contribution to the film industry,” she continued, saying she and their son Joshua would “miss Bob tremendously”.

Evans’ other wives included Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, to whom he was married for just 10 days.

Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw remembered Evans as a “passionate midwife to the Hollywood new wave” who mentored Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola and other film-makers.

It was for Polanski’s film noir Chinatown that Evans received his only Oscar nomination, for best picture, in 1975.

“RIP to a legend,” tweeted the actress Natasha Lyonne, while documentarian Mark Cousins likened him to Renaissance patron Cosimo de’ Medici.

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