Gregg Hoffman, producer of the recent hit film “Saw II,” died early Sunday at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been admitted overnight after complaining of neck pain, his business partners said. He was 42.
Hoffman died of natural causes, according to a news release issued Monday from Lions Gate Entertainment, which distributed Hoffman’s recent films. An autopsy is pending.
A former Walt Disney Co. executive, Hoffman was at the peak of his career in Hollywood with the back-to-back successes of the low-budget horror films “Saw” and “Saw II.”
Hoffman and his partners at Twisted Pictures independently financed the films, which allowed them to potentially reap tens of millions of dollars.
“We’ve won the lottery,” Hoffman said in a Times interview last month.
Hoffman’s family and colleagues described him as selfless in an industry where inflated egos are common.
“He never put himself in front of anybody,” said Oren Koules, one of Hoffman’s partners at Twisted Pictures. “He never did anything for the ego -- everything he did was for the betterment of the movie.”
Added partner Mark Burg: “He was one of this town’s good guys.”
Hoffman, a Phoenix native, attended American University in Washington, D.C. Long fascinated by films, he studied communications, law and economics, arriving in Hollywood in 1986 after graduating.
Hoffman started out as an assistant at PRO Filmworks, an independent production company, and worked his way up through the company’s ranks doing production and development work. On the side, he wrote a screenplay, which was never filmed. .
In 1995, Hoffman was hired at Disney, where he helped develop a roster of live-action children’s films including “Inspector Gadget,” “101 Dalmatians” and “The Parent Trap.” He eventually became a senior vice president of production, also earning a producer credit on Disney’s “George of the Jungle” comedy.
In January 2003, Hoffman joined longtime friends Koules and Burg at their management and production company, Evolution Entertainment.
Months after he was hired, Hoffman, a self-professed horror movie fan, came across a gory eight-minute short film, “Saw,” that he was convinced could make a fortune if produced as a full-length feature.
“He discovered this movie, brought it in and talked us into making it. He was the driving force behind it,” Koules said.
In the summer of 2003, the three partners put together the financing for the $1-million film “Saw,” about a serial killer. They also started Twisted Pictures with plans to make low-budget horror movies.
“In general, horror fans are rabid and underserved,” Hoffman said in the interview. “ ‘Saw’ is the thinking man’s horror movie.”
Opening on Halloween of 2004, “Saw” grossed more than $102 million in box office and DVD revenue. That led to this year’s sequel, “Saw II,” a $4-million film that in six weeks has grossed $85 million at the box office.
The success of those films led to development deals for Hoffman and his partners, including multi-picture arrangements with Lions Gate and Dimension Films. At the time of his death, Hoffman was working on the movies “Saw III” and “Crawlspace.”
He is survived by his wife, Lucienne; children, Jared and Luke; mother, Stephanie; and sister, Tracy.
Services are tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park.
The family has asked that memorial donations be made to Habitat for Humanity in Greater Los Angeles.