Robert Relyea dies at 82; film producer and MGM/UA executive

Robert E. Relyea, right, with Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen, left, and Robert E. Relyea at Le Mans. Robert E. Relyea, a film producer who collaborated with McQueen on “Bullitt,” “Le Mans” and other movies, has died.

Robert E. Relyea, who began producing films with actor Steve McQueen in the 1960s and rose to president of production for MGM/UA in the late 1990s, has died. He was 82.

The Hollywood veteran, who also worked with such actors as Elvis Presley and John Wayne and directors John Sturges, Robert Wise, Peter Yates, Stanley Donen and William Wyler, died March 12 at a Thousand Oaks hospital of natural causes, his family said.

Born May 3, 1930, in Santa Monica, the UCLA graduate was the third generation of his family to work in the film industry. He started his career as an entry-level crew member at MGM in 1955.

<b>FOR THE RECORD:</b><br>


<b>Robert Relyea:</b> A news obituary of film producer Robert Relyea in the March 18 LATExtra section incorrectly reported that he died March 12. He died March 5.


Two years after joining the studio, he became a first assistant director on the 1957 Presley classic “Jailhouse Rock” and worked as first assistant director on Sturges’ 1959 war film, “Never So Few” with Frank Sinatra and a young McQueen. The following year he collaborated with Sturges and McQueen on the 1960 Western classic “The Magnificent Seven.”


He joined Sturges’ Alpha Corp. in 1961, serving as second unit director and associate producer on the director’s 1963 World War II drama, “The Great Escape,” which also starred McQueen.

Relyea and the mercurial McQueen formed an independent company, Solar Productions, in 1966. Relyea was executive producer of three Solar films starring McQueen — the landmark 1968 detective thriller “Bullitt,” 1969’s “The Reivers,” and 1971’s “Le Mans,” a commercial and critical bust that ended the partnership.

Over the years, Relyea worked as an independent producer, served as senior vice president of motion picture management at Paramount and then joined MGM/UA as executive vice president of production in 1993. From 1997 to 2001, he was president of production at the studio. During his tenure at MGM/UA, he supervised such James Bond blockbusters as “Goldeneye,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The World Is Not Enough” and “Die Another Day,” as well as such hits as “Get Shorty” and “Legally Blonde.”

Then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Relyea chairman of the California Film Commission in 1996.

Relyea wrote his 2008 autobiography, “Not So Quiet on the Set: My Life in Movies During Hollywood’s Macho Era,” with his son Craig.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; children Steven, Craig, Lane, Brian and Kathleen; stepchildren Keith and Stephanie; and six grandchildren.


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