Jerome Hellman, an Oscar-winning producer of films such as “Midnight Cowboy” and “Coming Home,” has died. He was 92.
Hellman’s wife, Elizabeth Empleton Hellman, first told Deadline that he died on May 26, saying, “We will miss him terribly.” No cause of death was given. Hellman’s widow did not return TheWrap’s request for comment.
Jerome Hellman was a producer on seven films throughout his career between the 1960s and 1980s, and those movies earned a total of 17 Oscar nominations and six wins. He himself won an Oscar in 1969 when “Midnight Cowboy,” John Schlesinger’s X-rated drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, won Best Picture. The film was considered a long shot at the Oscars, considering its bleak subject matter of crime, prostitution and homosexuality, and he once told the Los Angeles Times that he was so certain they would lose that he hadn’t even prepared a speech.
Hellman began his career as an agent and would eventually form his own agency representing TV directors, writers and producers in the early days of live television. But in 1959, he dissolved his talent agency and became a producer, first working with Unit Four Productions alongside George Roy Hill and producing dramas for NBC. He then pivoted to film and produced Hill’s “The World of Henry Orient” (1964), which starred Peter Sellers, Angela Lansbury and Tom Bosley.
He would continue working with an impressive array of stars, including Sean Connery in “A Fine Madness” (1966), Donald Sutherland in “The Day of the Locust” (1975) and Jane Fonda in “Coming Home” (1978), which was also nominated for Best Picture and earned Hellman his second Oscar nod.
In 1979, Hellman directed and produced the drama “Promises in the Dark,” which starred Marsha Mason as a physician hiding behind her work after a recent divorce who ends up making a promise to a 17-year-old cancer patient to better fulfill her life. That same year, Hellman also had a small acting role in Hal Ashby’s “Being There,” again with Peter Sellers.
The final film Hellman produced was 1986’s “The Mosquito Coast,” starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and River Phoenix. The source material for the movie was just recently turned into an Apple TV+ series.