Saul Zaentz, the producer who won three Best Picture Oscars during a hugely successful career, died yesterday in San Francisco due to complications of Alzheimer's disease. The man behind such films as One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus was 92.
Zaentz only produced nine films, but shared three Best Picture Academy Awards for the aforementioned pair and 1996's The English Patient, as well as being awarded the honourary Irving J. Thalberg award in 1997. He also worked on the Ralph Bakshi version of The Lord Of The Rings, successful dramas like The Mosquito Coast, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being andAt Play In The Fields Of The Lord, and most recently Goya's Ghosts in 2006, reuniting withAmadeus and Cuckoo's Nest director Milos Forman.
Zaentz had had a long career in the music business before he ever turned to film. Born in 1921, he served in the army during World War II, and very briefly tried life as a chicken farmer immediately following his military service. He then studied business before heading to San Francisco where he began work with record company head Norman Granz. Zaentz worked on a concert series called Jazz At The Philharmonic, managing concert tours with the likes of Duke Ellington. In 1955, he joined independent jazz label Fantasy Records, buying the company in 1967. There, he worked with Creedence Clearwater Revival among other artists, which unhappily sparked a series of increasingly acrimonious lawsuits with the group's frontman John Fogerty over the next few decades.
His film career sparked less controversy, although he was involved in the rights litigation surrounding The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. Zaentz also received a Producers Guild lifetime achievement award in 1994 and a BAFTA Academy Fellowship in 2003.
Saul Zaentz is survived by four children and seven grandchildren.