Robert Evans (born June 29, 1930) is a Film Producer best known for his work in the golden era of new Hollywood. He started out as an actor, however, dissatisfied with his own acting talent, he determined to become a producer.
He got his start as head of production at Paramount by purchasing the rights to a 1966 novel entitled ‘The Detective’ which Evans made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. This got Evans noticed by Charles Bludhorn, who was head of the Gulf+Western conglomerate who owed the studio, and hired Evans as part of a shakeup at Paramount Pictures.
When Evans took over as Head of Production for Paramount, the foundering studio was the ninth largest. Despite Evans’ inexperience, he was able to turn the studio around. He made Paramount the most successful studio in Hollywood and transformed it into a very profitable enterprise for Gulf+Western. During his tenure at Paramount, the studio turned out classic films such as ‘Barefoot in the Park’, ‘The Odd Couple’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Italian Job’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Love Story’, ‘Harold and Maude’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘Serpico’, ‘The Conversation’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, and many others. Although he obviously had an eye for a hit, he did turn down ‘The French Connection’ and ‘Jaws’…
Dissatisfied with his financial compensation, and desiring to produce films under his own banner, Evans struck a deal with Paramount that enabled him to stay on as studio head while also working as an independent producer. Other producers at Paramount felt this gave Evans an unfair advantage. Eventually Evans stepped down, which enabled him to produce films on his own. He went on to produce such films as ‘Chinatown’, ‘Marathon Man’, ‘Black Sunday’, ‘Urban Cowboy’, ‘The Cotton Club’ and the Chinatown sequel, ‘The Two Jakes’.
Evans began to fall on hard times in the early 1980s, when during the production of ‘Popeye’ he was convicted for attempting to buy cocaine. Things got even worse for him when he began filming ‘The Cotton Club’. Evans was slated to direct, but due to production complications Francis Ford Coppola was called in during the filming. The budget for the film soared and Coppola and Evans fought endlessly. Evans was peripherally linked to the murder of Roy Haddin, an investor in The Cotton Club, who was murdered. Evans was accused of involvement; he pleaded the 5th Amendment and was sent home. Evans wrote in his excellent 1994 autobiography ‘The Kid Stays In The Picture’ that he was a “tangential character, at best” in regard to the case.
Hollywood scriptwriter Joe Eszterhas repeatedly describes his friend, Evans, as “the devil” in his book, Hollywood Animal, and goes on to say that “all lies ever told anywhere about Robert Evans are true.”