Robert Chartoff, Producer of ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Rocky,’ Dies at 81


Photo

From left, Irwin Winkler, Sylvester Stallone and Robert Chartoff in 1977.

Credit
ABC, via Photofest

Robert Chartoff, half of the powerful Hollywood producing team behind “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” as well as other high-profile dramas, died on Wednesday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 81.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, his son William said.

For two decades, beginning in 1967, Mr. Chartoff and his partner, Irwin Winkler, produced many of the signature Hollywood films of the era, often plumbing American themes with the help of star-filled casts.

They included the suspense thriller “Point Blank” (1967), an underworld little-guy-versus-the-system tale with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson; “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969), a sad, sardonic Depression-era parable starring Jane Fonda about desperate contestants in a dance marathon; “New York, New York” (1977), an atmospheric drama, directed by Martin Scorsese, about a troubled love affair between a volatile sax player (Robert De Niro) and a singer (Liza Minnelli); and “True Confessions” (1981), a crime story, set in Los Angeles in 1948 and based on a novel by John Gregory Dunne, about a pair of brothers, a cop (Robert Duvall) and a priest (Mr. De Niro), both of them morally compromised.

They also produced “The Right Stuff” (1983) an Academy Award nominee for best picture that was adapted from Tom Wolfe’s exegesis of the early years of the American space program, its macho ethos and the nature of heroism, starring, among others, Sam Shepard and Ed Harris.

But Mr. Chartoff is probably best known for two of Hollywood’s boxing blockbusters. “Raging Bull” (1980), based on a memoir by the former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta, directed by Mr. Scorsese and featuring a tour de force performance by Mr. De Niro, was one of Hollywood’s most revered films. In 2007 the American Film Institute ranked it No. 4 on its list of the 100 best films of all time (though it did not win the Oscar in 1980; “Ordinary People” did.)

“Rocky” (1976), the unlikely and inspiring tale of a big-hearted but over-the-hill Philadelphia boxer who gets set up as a tomato can for the heavyweight champion and nearly wins the title, traced an unlikely and inspiring path of its own, mustering a small budget and the work of an unknown screenwriter, Sylvester Stallone, who insisted on playing the central role himself. It made him a megastar.

It was Mr. Chartoff who is widely credited for seizing on Mr. Stallone’s script and backing him as the title character. “Rocky” not only won the Academy Award for best picture but also begat numerous sequels. (“Creed,” the seventh film in the series, with Mr. Stallone starring as the trainer to the grandson of Apollo Creed, the champion he almost dethroned in the first film, is scheduled to open later this year. Mr. Chartoff, his son William and Mr. Winkler are all listed as producers.).

In the 2004 collection “Movie Moguls Speak: Interviews With Top Film Producers,” edited by Steven Priggé, Mr. Chartoff recalled that though he could not have predicted the colossal success of “Rocky,” he did have a premonition that they had hit on a popular nerve.

“All I can tell you is that on the last day of filming, I bought a leather-bound pad and a pen for Sylvester,” he said. “I walked up to him and said, ‘Now go write the sequel.’”

For his part, Mr. Stallone said of Mr. Chartoff in a statement after his death: “He changed my life forever.”

Robert Irwin Chartoff was born in the Bronx on Aug. 26, 1933, to William Chartoff, a professional musician who played bass in the New York Philharmonic, and the former Bessie Rappaport. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., working summers with an uncle who was an agent and talent manager in the Catskills.

Mr. Chartoff graduated from law school at Columbia but decided he liked show business better than the law. After meeting Mr. Winkler, then working for the William Morris Agency in New York, the two (with Judd Bernard) put together their first film, “Double Trouble,” an Elvis Presley vehicle.

Mr. Chartoff’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Jenny Weyman, whom he married in 1991; his sons William and Charley; three daughters, Miranda, Julie and Jenifer Chartoff; and 10 grandchildren.

His other films with Mr. Winkler included “The New Centurions” (1972), a Los Angeles cop story based on a novel by Joseph Wambaugh and starring George C. Scott and Stacy Keach; “The Mechanic,” (1972), in which Charles Bronson played an aging hit man; and “The Gambler” (1974), in which James Caan plays a literature professor with a compulsion for risk and a lot of bad luck. They dissolved their active partnership in the late 1980s, though they remained friends.

Mr. Chartoff later started another company, which, among other films, produced “In My Country” (2004), a drama about a black American journalist (Samuel L. Jackson) in South Africa; an adaptation of “The Tempest” (2010), directed by Julie Taymor and starring Helen Mirren; and “Ender’s Game” (2013), a science fiction action film with Harrison Ford.

After a visit to India some 25 years ago, Mr. Chartoff founded and built a school for rural children in Bihar province in the northeast part of the country.

In the “Movie Moguls” interview, Mr. Chartoff said that making “Rocky” was “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” recalling that the budget for the movie was $950,000 and that it made more than $200 million.

He also addressed the distinction of helping to produce perhaps the two greatest boxing movies ever made.

“Personally, I don’t even like boxing,” he said.



Source link

About admin

Check Also

Your Week in Culture: Jay-Z, Eugene O’Neill and ‘Princess Bride’ in Theaters Nationwide

It’s a pulpy psychological drama with a madwoman in the attic, and a conventional staging ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *