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Michael Stevens dies at 48; producer of 'Bad City Blues' and 'Sin'

Michael Stevens dies at 48; producer of 'Bad City Blues' and 'Sin'
Michael Stevens, the third generation in a family of filmmakers, died Oct. 15 at the age of 48. (Stevens family)

Michael Stevens' grandfather was an Oscar-winning director, his father the founder of the American Film Institute.

But when he arrived in Los Angeles, Stevens was just another aspiring filmmaker.

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Still in his 20s and his career plans cloudy at best, he wandered down Hollywood Boulevard looking over the famous names in the sidewalk until he came across his grandfather, George Stevens.

"I remember putting my hands in my grandfather's handprints," Stevens recalled in a 1999 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "And my feet in his shoe prints and looking across the street and seeing the El Capitan Theatre.

Six years later, he returned when "Bad City Blues," a dark and gritty film about a bank heist gone terribly wrong, premiered at the theater.

"Things have a nice way of working out, I guess," he said at the premiere.

Stevens, the third generation in a family of filmmakers, died Oct. 15 at the age of 48, according to a statement from the family. He was being treated for cancer.

Though he studied journalism in college and went off to Europe to write, Stevens' career path could have been scripted long before.

His grandfather, George Stevens, was a towering film director who was routinely nominated for Oscars for films such as "Shane," "Giant" and "The Diary of Anne Frank." His film "A Place in the Sun" won six Academy Awards, including best director.

His father, George Stevens Jr., walked the same path, signing on as an production assistant on "A Place in the Sun" and other films his father directed. He founded the AFI, created the acclaimed Kennedy Center Honors, produced TV specials and wrote the one-person play "Thurgood," based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

But when Michael Stevens landed in Hollywood, that legacy was lost on some.

When an organizer of the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival called Stevens to ask for an advance screening of "Bad City Blues," the young director said, the organizer didn't seem to have the faintest idea who he was.

"He didn't know me from Adam."

Stevens was born Nov. 21, 1966, in Washington D.C.

He attended Duke University and worked overseas at the International Herald Tribune.

"My world was journalism, sports, politics, girls and going out," he told The Times in 1999.

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That changed when he moved to L.A. and worked as an associate producer on "The Thin Red Line", a World War II movie about an Army deserter who's forced back into active duty for the battle of Guadalcanal. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Stevens followed with "Bad City Blues" and "Sin," both violent crime dramas.

He produced a series of AFI lifetime salutes to directors and movie stars — including Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg — and co-produced all of the Kennedy Center Honors shows since 2003, sharing in five consecutive Emmys. In 2009, he helped produced the HBO special "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration."

Stevens is survived by his wife; Alexandra; children John and Lily; brother David; sister Caroline Stevens Koka; and his parents, George and Elizabeth Stevens.

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