Jerry Weintraub was a producer best known for his work on hit films including The Karate Kid, the Ocean’s series and the television movie Behind the Candelabra, the last of which won 11 Emmy Awards, including one for Weintraub in the Outstanding Miniseries or Movie category. The 2013 HBO biopic was directed by Steven Soderbergh and was based on the memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace by Scott Thorson (played in the movie by Matt Damon), and starring Michael Douglas as Liberace.
After serving in the Air Force and using the G.I. Bill to study at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse, Weintraub began his more than 50-year career in entertainment as an NBC page. He also worked in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency and became an agent at MCA in the 1950s before moving into personal management and working briefly on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
In 1960 he founded Management III with two other managers, Bernie Brillstein and Marty Kummer. After successfully promoting an Elvis Presley tour, the company’s client list grew dramatically. Then in 1974 he presented the “first around the world by satellite” concert, Frank Sinatra: The Main Event at Madison Square Garden. He would go on to produce a wide variety of television movies and filmed concerts including multiple specials for John Denver, Dorothy Hamill, Neil Diamond and The Carpenters. He won an Emmy Award in 1975 for Outstanding Special - Comedy-Variety or Music for An Evening with John Denver.
After one Denver performance Weintraub met Robert Altman, who sent him a prospective project. That became the 1975 film Nashville, which was nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for best picture. In 1983 he signed a three-year, right-of-first-refusal contract with Columbia Pictures. His work in film included Diner; Oh, God!; September 30, 1955; Cruising and The Karate Kid as well as its three sequels, including the most recent 2010 version starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. He also produced the 1989 animated television series version loosely based on the film. And in 2001 he produced the Ocean's Eleven remake starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts, as well as the two sequels in 2004 and 2007.
His other work in television included Showtime’s 2014 climate-change documentary Years of Living Dangerously (for which he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series), the HBO comedy The Brink, and one of his final credits, a remake of Westworld, also for HBO.
After briefly serving as chairman and CEO of United Artists in 1985 he formed his own production company, Weintraub Entertainment Group. WEG folded in 1990, but he then founded Jerry Weintraub Prods. where he produced Pure Country, The Specialist, Vegas Vacation, 1998’s The Avengers, Soldier, the Oceans films, Nancy Drew and the reboot of The Karate Kid.
Weintraub would also be the focus of a 2011 HBO documentary His Way, directed by Douglas McGrath. In 2010 he wrote a memoir, When I Stop Talking You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1984 and in 2007 he became the first producer to be “cemented” in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. He was nominated for a total of seven Emmy Awards, winning three.
Weintraub died July 6, 2015, in Santa Barbara, California. He was 77.