Producer Mike Medavoy’s life would make a movie as inspiring as his films featuring his hard work, talent, and luck, combined with vision, determination, and close family ties. Mike has been involved in over 300 feature films – seven won the coveted Best Picture Oscars® and 16 were nominated in the same category. Quite a record!
Born and raised till seven in Shanghai to Russian Jewish parents, Mike moved with his sister and parents to Chile, where he worked as a summer camp counselor. The father of one of his campers was the American consul, who granted them a U.S. visa. Mike became a citizen in 1963, the same year he graduated with honors from UCLA with his B.A. in history and a minor in political science, two lifelong interests.
In 1964, beginning in Universal’s mailroom, he climbed the ladder of success, as a casting director, talent agent, and vice president at two talent agencies, working with Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Terrence Malick. He left to join United Artists in 1974 and was part of the team responsible for releasing, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” (1975), “Rocky,” (1976), and “Annie Hall” (1977), all which won the Best Picture Oscars over three successive years.
Medavoy left UA with Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, and Eric Pleskow to become a co-founder of Orion Pictures in 1978. They released, “Platoon,” “Amadeus,” “RoboCop,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Dances with Wolves,” and “The Silence of the Lambs” – a total of 48 Oscar nominations and 28 Oscar wins!
In 1990, Medavoy became chairman of TriStar Pictures with films including, “Philadelphia,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” (with Carolco), “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Cliffhanger,” (with Carolco), “The Fisher King,” “Legends of the Fall,” and “Hook.”
In 1995, Medavoy co-founded Phoenix Pictures with Arnold Messer and produced, “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “U-Turn” “Urban Legend I & II,” “The 6th Day”, “Basic,” “Apt Pupil,” “Zodiac”, “Resurrecting the Champ,” “Stealth,” “All the King's Men,” “The Thin Red Line”, “Shutter Island,” “Shanghai,” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” among others.
In 2011, Medavoy announced two projects: 1) "The 33" - a film about the Chilean mining accident, leaving 33 men trapped underground for 69 days, which Medavoy stated, “at its heart, [is] about the triumph of the human spirit and a testament to the courage and perseverance of the Chilean people” - starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Oscar Nunez, James Brolin and Lou Diamond Phillips, and 2) a collaboration with The Shanghai Film Group for a feature and a six-hour miniseries. The feature film, an adaptation of the novel, The Cursed Piano, is a love story set in Japanese-occupied China concerning prosecuted Jews seeking refuge from an occupied Europe. The mini-series, “Tears of a Sparrow”, will focus with more details on these Jews in Shanghai, a subject near to his heart.
His 2002 best-selling book, You’re Only As Good As Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films and 100 For Which I Should Be Shot, came out in paperback in 2003.
Mike and co-author Nathan Gardels wrote, American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age in 2009, demonstrating his interest in Hollywood, politics, and history, and they were guests on my radio show.
A good friend of Marlon Brando and at his request, Mike was named as one of the co-executors of Marlon’s estate and presides over the Brando label, www.marlonbrando.com
Mike’s awards, too many to mention here, include: his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, 1992 Motion Picture Pioneer of the Year Award, 1997 Career Achievement Award from UCLA, Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 at the Cannes Film Festival, and Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2012 Shanghai International Film Festival.
Medavoy resides in Beverly Hills with his wife Irena and son, Nicholas, 15. His older son Brian, from a previous marriage, is an Emmy winning producer.
Mike smiles, “I consider myself to be one of the luckiest human beings alive, but I worked hard for it. Doing what you love, being happily married, a devoted father and having committed family ties; that what makes for a life worth living.”
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