Ronald L Schwary, Oscar-Winning ‘Ordinary People’ Producer, Dies at 76

Schwary also worked as a producer on “Tootsie” and “Scent of a Woman,” among others

Last Updated: July 12, 2020 @ 11:16 AM

Ronald L. Schwary, Oscar-winning producer of Robert Redford’s 1980 drama “Ordinary People,” died on July 2 at age 76, his family announced.

He was forced into retirement in 2015 due to a rare neurological autonomic disorder that he had been struggling with. His death was due to complications of his disorder. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his sons.

Schwary’s extensive career as a producer took off in 1978 after serving as an associate producer on the film adaptation of the Neil Simon play “California Suite,” starring Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and many others. That same year, he also served as associate producer and production manager for the Sydney Pollack-directed film “The Electric Horseman,” starring Fonda and Robert Redford.

The following year, Redford hired Schwary as the sole producer for his directorial debut, “Ordinary People.” That film went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture for Schwary and Best Director for Redford, as well as the New York Film Critics Award, National Board of Review Best Picture Award and a Golden Globe Award as well for Schwary.

He again teamed with Pollack on “Absence of Malice,” the newspaper drama starring Paul Newman and Sally Field, and then again in 1982’s Best Picture Oscar-nominated film “Tootsie,” starring Dustin Hoffman, for whom he had served as a stand-in on “The Graduate.”

Schwary went on to produce the Rolling Stones concert documentary “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” as well as 1984’s “A Soldier’s Story,” which earned him his second Academy Award nomination and second Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. He produced three more films with Pollack, “Havana” (working again with Redford), “Sabrina,” and “Random Hearts,” and two films with Martin Brest, Best Picture Oscar-nominated film “Scent of a Woman,” starring Al Pacino and “Meet Joe Black,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. Among the other films he produced are “Batteries Not Included,” “Cops and Robbersons” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” directed by Barbra Streisand.

In addition, he was producer on the Vietnam War-set TV drama “Tour of Duty,” and executive producer alongside Glenn Gordon Caron, for both the Dennis Haysbert series “Now and Again” and, for seven seasons, the CBS series “Medium,” which starred Patricia Arquette as real-life psychic/medium Allison Dubois, who aided police in solving crimes.

In addition to his sons, Brian and Neil, Schwary is survived by his three brothers, Mitchell Jr., Dennis, Gary and his sister, Carol; his grandson, Mars, and his many nephews and nieces.

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