Robert Evans, the Paramount studio chief who oversaw the production of “Chinatown,” “The Godfather” and “Love Story” and whose colorful life was the subject of a documentary film, has died at the age of 89, it was announced Monday.
Evans’ death was announced by a family spokeswoman who gave no further details.
Evans was installed as head of production at Paramount in 1967, presiding over such hits as “The Odd Couple,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Goodbye, Columbus.”
In 1980, Evans pleaded guilty to a cocaine charge and over the next dozen years, produced only two films: “The Cotton Club” and the Chinatown sequel “The Two Jakes.”
Evans was named in a scandal involving the murder of aspiring Hollywood player Roy Radin during the production of “The Cotton Club.” Evans became a material witness in the case, although he had no connection to the murder.
Evans’ flamboyant personality, distinctive speaking style and look — perpetual tan, oversize glasses — became fodder for Dustin Hoffman’s producer character in the 1997 parody “Wag the Dog.” Rob Ryan, a recurring character in the HBO series “Entourage” was said to be inspired by Evans.
In 1994, Evans published a bestselling memoir, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” which became the basis for the 2002 documentary on his life. The title reportedly comes from a line attributed to studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who was defending then-actor Evans after some of the cast of the 1957 film “The Sun Also Rises” had urged that he be removed from the movie.
Born Robert Shapera in New York, Evans had worked on more than 300 radio shows and the occasional TV show and plays by the time he was 18. In the oft-told story, he was “discovered” poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel by actress Norma Shearer, who asked him to play her deceased husband, MGM exec Irving Thalberg, in the 1957 film “Man of a Thousand Faces,” a biopic of horror actor Lon Chaney.
Evans married seven times, but none of the unions lasted more than three years. His former wives included Ali MacGraw, who became a star with her performance in “Goodbye, Columbus,” and was the mother of Evans’ only child, Josh; former Miss America Phyllis George; and actresses Catherine Oxenberg and Leslie Ann Woodward.
Funeral information was not immediately available.
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