Magazine article Variety

Three-Time Oscar-Winning Producer Was Known for Opportune Acquisitions

Magazine article Variety

Three-Time Oscar-Winning Producer Was Known for Opportune Acquisitions

Article excerpt

Producer Saul Zaentz, who won best picture Oscars for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus" and "The English Patient," died Jan. 3 in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was 92 and had been suffering from Alzheimer's.

The entrepreneurial and famously litigious Zaentz, who spent most of his life as a record producer, did not become involved in the movie business until he was in his 50s. He produced only a handful of movies - many of them self-financed.

His nephew Paul Zaentz, with whom he had worked for many years at the Saul Zaentz Co., confirmed his death.

His foresight in acquiring rights to prestigious novels, including J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit," led to blockbuster payoffs. In many cases, the profits led to lawsuits. His courtly, grandfatherly manner belied his ferocious attempts to hold onto rights and returns to which he felt he was entitled.

His productions usually came with literary pedigrees - 1975's "Cuckoo's Nest" was based on Ken Kesey's iconoclastic novel; 1984's "Amadeus" was adapted from Peter Shaffer's stage drama; and 1996's "The English Patient" was based on the Michael Ondaatje novel. …

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