The legendary producer also shares how he saved “Chinatown”
Mia Farrow owes her career to Robert Evans — and he’s not shy about saying so.
During a recent Producers Guild of American event, Evans told the story about how, shortly after he took over as president of production at Paramount, he persuaded director Roman Polanski to cast Farrow as the star of “Rosemary’s Baby.” Farrow was a relative unknown at the time, and the movie would not only earn her a Golden Globe nomination but launch a career that spanned four decades.
It would also end her marriage to Frank Sinatra. The legendary singer pressured Farrow to quit the film as their marriage began to suffer, so Evans put together some cuts to persuade Farrow to stay.
“I pulled Mia into a production room, [and] said ‘Mia, you’ll win the Academy Award for this,'” Evans said. “That’s all I had to say. The war began.”
Farrow stayed on the movie, and her relationship with Sinatra became so volatile that Sinatra’s lawyer delivered divorce papers on the set of the movie.
“She left Frank to play the devil’s mom,” Evans remarked. “It seems like a phony story, but it’s true.”
Sinatra and Evans later got in a huge fight in Palm Springs and Sinatra yelled with such vigor that he injured his vocal chords.
He couldn’t sing for two months.
“Rosemary’s Baby” was one of more than a dozen iconic stories Evans told through film, but the producer of “Chinatown” and “Marathon Man” has even more to say about the making of those movies. Like how he saved “Chinatown.” Now considered one of the greatest movies in Hollywood history, it took some last-minute mischief to make it so.
“When we finished the picture and previewed it, it fell on its ass,” Evans said. He blamed the music even though the score was composed by Krzysztof Komeda, the same man who composed “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Evans changed the score three weeks before the movie was supposed to open in theaters, hiring Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith composed new music in eight days. It usually takes eight weeks.
“Bob is a producer who makes decisions and is fearless,” Hawk Koch, co-president of the Producers’ Guild of America (and assistant director on “Chinatown”), told the audience.
The score earned an Oscar nomination, one of 11 the movie received.
Evans has condensed those stories into his new memoir, “The Fat Lady Sang, the follow-up to his best-selling 1994 autobiography “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” which also inspired a 2002 documentary of the same name. Though Evans was born before movies were in color, he pushed his editor at HarperCollins to make a book that broke new ground.
So HarperCollins spoke to Apple and created “The Robert Evans Experience,” a new product on tablets that combines Evans’ two books as well as photos, letters and video recordings.
That includes Evans’ famous pitch to his corporate overlords at Gulf & Western to prevent them from selling the Paramount lot.
Evans recently sat down to talk about his new book for “An Evening with Robert Evans,” the latest in the PGA West’s Digital VIP Salon Series.
He began by recounting a harrowing experience. Evans hosted Wes Craven in his screening room, where the playboy often hosted Hollywood parties nonpareil. The director of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was writing a book of his own at the time.
“I looked at Wes and toasted him ‘to a writer who wants to give away directorial work for a year and write this book,'” Evans said. “As I do that, the glass slips and I slip with it.”
An ambulance soon arrived and Evans saw that white light. Evans had suffered a stroke, one that took months to recover from. He didn’t want his son, screenwriter Josh Evans, to see him at first, but he invited him to visit on the same night of the series finale of “Seinfeld.”
The TV cut to black halfway through.
“Frank had been taken out in a gurney dead,” Evans recalled. “He was 2 rooms away.”