Legendary Film Producer Jerry Weintraub Dies


Super-producer Jerry Weintraub, the connector and showman behind the Ocean’s series, The Karate Kid, and Diner (among many others), died yesterday in Santa Barbara. He was 77.

The Brooklyn-born Weintraub started at the bottom of the entertainment business—as a theater usher and a Catskills waiter. He made a more formal entry, in true showbiz style, via the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, which led Weintraub to become an agent himself. He made his name promoting a series of concerts for Elvis Presley, eventually working with Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Carpenters, and many more.

His music industry ties led him to film work, serving first as an executive producer on Robert Altman’s Nashville before producing Oh, God! as a vehicle for his client John Denver. Over the decades that followed, he turned his focus to film, producing Barry Levinson’s debut film Diner, the Sylvester Stallone vehicle The Specialist, the country music drama Pure Country, the Karate Kid series, and Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven and its two sequels.

He also made memorable cameo appearances in the Ocean’s movies, as high roller Denny Shields, as well as appearing in The Firm, Vegas Vacation, Full Frontal, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. An ace storyteller, he was the focus of an entertaining 2011 HBO documentary called His Way, executive produced by frequent collaborator Soderbergh. Check it out if you get a chance—Weintraub was a true character, one of the last of the old school producers, and his death marks the end of an era.