NEW YORK – Jerry Weintraub, the dynamic producer and manager who pushed the career of John Denver and produced such hit movies as "Nashville" and "Ocean's Eleven," has died. He was 77.
Representatives for Weintraub said he died Monday of cardiac arrest in Santa Barbara, California.
Weintraub rose from talent agency mail room employee to top concert promoter — working with the likes of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra — and shaping Denver's career before tackling the movie business starting in the 1970s.
His attempt to found his own studio, Weintraub Entertainment Group, ended in bankruptcy. But his success as an independent producer spanned decades, from "Karate Kid" to 2013's Emmy-winning Liberace drama "Behind the Candelabra," a film he took to HBO after all the studios passed.
"Jerry was an American original, who earned his success by the sheer force of his instinct, drive, and larger-than-life personality," said President George H.W. Bush, a longtime friend. "He had a passion for life, and throughout the ups and downs of his prolific career it was clear just how much he loved show business."
"In the coming days there will be tributes, about our friend Jerry Weintraub," said George Clooney, a star of the "Ocean's" movies. "We'll laugh at his great stories, and applaud his accomplishments. And in the years to come the stories and accomplishments will get better with age, just as Jerry would have wanted it. But not today. Today our friend died."
A Brooklyn-born telephone-wielding impresario, Weintraub fashioned himself in the mold of Mike Todd, Cecil B. DeMille and P.T. Barnum. He titled his 2011 memoir, "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead." At the time, he joked he might write another: "Dead, But Still Talking."
"If asked my philosophy, it would be simply this: Savor life, don't press too hard, don't worry too much. Or as the old-timers say, 'Enjoy,'" he wrote. "But ... I never could live by this philosophy and was, in fact, out working, hustling, trading, scheming, and making a buck as soon as I was old enough to leave my parents' house."
Weintraub left numerous projects behind. He's the executive producer of the recently debuted HBO series "The Brink" and a producer on an upcoming remake of "Tarzan."