Prolific movie producer David Foster dies at 90

David Foster speaks at a New York screening of 'The Getaway' in 2009
David Foster speaks at a New York screening of “The Getaway” in 2009.
(Carolyn Contino/BEI/Shutterstock)

Movie producer David Foster, whose career spanned six decades, died on Dec. 23 at the Los Angeles Jewish Home of natural causes. He was 90.


Notable movie producer David Foster, who was behind such hits as “The Getaway” and the Oscar-nominated western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 90.

The news was confirmed by his son Greg Foster, a former CEO of Imax Entertainment. “It’s the end of an era,” he said. “Our father was part of the migration from New York to L.A. where Hollywood was Shangri La. He was a classic poor kid from an immigrant family and he always felt really privileged and couldn’t believe he was in Hollywood.”

Foster was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1929 to Polish Jewish immigrant parents who moved the family to La Jolla and then to Los Angeles when he was 17. He served in the Korean War and later as the head speechwriter for Gen. “Iron Mike” Daniels in Pearl Harbor.

Foster earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and planned to become a sports columnist. But after getting out of the Army, he couldn’t find a reporting job.

“I saw an ad in the trades for (the public relations firm) Rogers & Cowan for young trainees,” he told The Times in 1994. After three years, he said, he realized he would never become a partner so he quit and formed his own PR firm with three partners, representing such clients as Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Peter Sellers and Clint Eastwood.


McQueen convinced Foster to leave publicity in 1970 and focus on producing. In 1971, Foster and his partner Mitchell Brower staged their first production, the western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, which earned the latter an Oscar nomination. He also produced McQueen’s 1972 hit “The Getaway” to financial success.

Foster partnered with Lawrence Turman in 1974 to launch the Turman Foster Company, where they produced films including “The Drowning Pool” (1975), “Heroes” (1977), “The Thing” (1982), “Running Scared” (1986) and “The River Wild” (1994). The pair also produced the 1981 comedy “Caveman,” starring Ringo Starr; the 1986 sci-fi comedy “Short Circuit” and its 1988 sequel.

“We’re total opposites,” Foster told The Times. “That’s why it works.” Turman added, “One of the beauties of our partnership is we don’t have to agree.”

The two first met when Turman hired Foster, then a publicist, to help promote his 1967 movie, “The Graduate.”

“Larry is the opera and the symphony,” Foster said. “I like to go to the football game and scream and carry on.”

Later in his career, Foster produced “The Mask of Zorro” (1998), “Collateral Damage” (2002), “Hart’s War” (2002) and the 2005 remake of “The Fog” and served as executive producer on a 2011 remake of “The Thing.”

All three of his sons — Tim, a former producer; Gary, a veteran producer; and Greg — whom he dubbed “movie brats,” followed Foster into the movie business.

In 2002, David Foster told The Times that despite all his years in Hollywood he was still devastated by a flop. His sons being in the business themselves somehow helped ease the pain.

“You spend years working on a picture, and it can be over in a weekend,” he said. “I could never handle it without my wife and sons. They all call and tell me the critics are full of [it]. It makes me feel better, even if I know that sometimes they’re lying.”


Foster is also survived by his wife of 60 years, Jackie Pattiz; daughters-in-law Lisa and Marci; and grandchildren Daryn, Drew, Kayla, Jackson and Lucas.

His funeral is set for 11 a.m. on Jan. 2 at Hillside Memorial Park. Donations may be made to the Jewish Home for the Aging.

Times staff contributed to this report.