Jake Eberts, the
He was diagnosed in late 2010 with
During four decades in the film business, Eberts financed or produced more than 50 films, including four that won
FOR THE RECORD:
Jake Eberts: In the Sept. 8 LATExtra section, the obituary of film producer Jake Eberts said that the 1989 movie "Driving Miss Daisy" concerned a spinster and her black driver. The female character was a widow, not a spinster. —
He also produced "The Killing Fields" (1984), "City of Joy" (1992), "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000) and the ecological
Eberts was known for his financing savvy and personal approach to moviemaking, backing projects that appealed to him on a deep emotional level and presenting compelling stories without gratuitous sex, car chases and violence.
"He was truly the gentleman of Hollywood," said Jim Berk, chief executive of Participant Media, which partnered with Eberts on "Oceans" and other projects.
"Jake's purpose in life was to try to create content that not only tells stories but leads to social awareness and people inspired to do things that are beyond the norm. So he would look for that…. He had that special touch finding those stories."
Eberts was a struggling, 33-year-old investment banker in 1974 when he was approached to arrange the financing for an animated feature about a group of beleaguered rabbits. "Watership Down" (1978), based on the novel by Richard Adams, became a box-office and critical success and hooked Eberts on the movie business.
He formed Goldcrest Films in 1976 with backing from the British publishing giant Pearson. Goldcrest's first major success was "Chariots of Fire," the
In rapid succession Goldcrest produced "Gandhi," the epic about India's charismatic Mohandas K. Gandhi, the spiritual and political figure who led a historic campaign of nonviolent resistance against British colonial rule; and "The Killing Fields," a gripping story about
"Films had to touch his heart," Fiona Eberts said of her husband on Friday. "He went by gut feeling on a lot of them, starting with 'Gandhi,'" which director
When Goldcrest came on the scene, the two major British studios, EMI and Rank, were in steep decline. "Jake got on with the business of making big, popular movies," said Terry Illott, a British writer who covered the media business for the Financial Times and co-wrote a 1990 book with Eberts about Goldcrest's rise and fall called "My Indecision Is Final."
"Goldcrest was so ambitious, so confident and so enterprising that it threw the creative and entrepreneurial failure of Rank and EMI into sharp relief," said Illott. "People in the industry in the UK started to look to Goldcrest as a model, as they have done ever since."
Eberts left Goldcrest in 1984 to work for Embassy Pictures but was lured back a few years later. The company was on the verge of collapse, having sunk millions into some problem-plagued films, including
After leaving Goldcrest, Eberts founded Allied Filmmakers, an independent film development and production company based in London and Paris.
In the late 1980s he was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, whose project about a crotchety spinster in Atlanta and her black chauffeur had been turned down by every major American studio. But Eberts liked the story and put up $3.25 million, which attracted an additional $4.5 million from
"Without Jake Eberts,"
The son of an Alcan Aluminum executive, Eberts was born in Montreal on July 7, 1941. He trained as a chemical engineer at McGill University but found he wasn't very good at it. In 1966 he earned an MBA from Harvard University and worked on Wall Street for three years before joining an investment house in London in 1971.
During the past decade he began concentrating on developing nature-themed documentaries. He collaborated with National Geographic on several projects, including its upcoming theatrical release about nanotechnology, "Mysteries of the Unseen World."
"People wouldn't think of someone with a chemical engineering background to end up in the movie world," Eberts wrote in "My Indecision Is Final," "but life can take you down these wonderful paths."
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Lindsay, and sons Alexander and David.