Born: July 7, 1941; Died: September 6, 2012.
Jake Eberts, who has died of cancer aged 71, was the founder of Goldcrest Films, he is widely credited with reviving the British film industry when it looked like it was in its death throes in the early 1980s and he was instrumental in putting Scotland on international cinema screens.
One of the first films Goldcrest backed was Chariots Of Fire (1981). It put up money early on and financed the writing of the screenplay. The film went on to become the first film shot in Scotland to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and Goldcrest got almost £1 million back from an investment of £17,700.
It put a lot more into Gandhi (1982), which won the Oscar the following year, and Local Hero (1983), the Bill Forsyth comedy widely regarded as one of the best Scottish films ever made.
Eberts was very good at spotting the potential in offbeat projects and putting together the finance to get them made. He later pulled off another unlikely Oscar double with the American films Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Dances With Wolves (1990), serving as executive producer on both.
His success as a film producer came despite the fact that he entered to the industry relatively late and had already had two careers, as an engineer and a banker – or maybe it was because of his wider experience in business and finance.
Born John David Eberts in Montreal, he studied chemical engineering at the city's McGill University and later attended Harvard Business School. By the mid-1970s he had risen to a senior position in chartered accountants Oppenheimer's London operation.
Eberts was tall, good-looking, dynamic and fiercely intelligent. He entered the film industry almost by chance, as a result of helping to raise finance for the animated film Watership Down (1978). Some of the money came from the Pearson group, whose interests included Penguin, which published the novel.
His earliest ventures into the film business might have put off a lesser man. The director of Watership Down died during the making of the film and an involvement in Zulu Dawn (1979) proved a disaster and left him heavily in debt.
However, it occurred to Eberts that it might be a good idea to set up a company to develop film versions of Penguin novels and that such a relationship could benefit both film and book.
That was the beginning of Goldcrest Films, in which Pearson was the major investor. Eberts resigned from Oppenheimer and became chief executive of the new company.
Goldcrest invested in Chariots Of Fire on the strength of the basic storyline of the rivalry between the Scottish runner Eric Liddell and England's Harold Abrahams, and his belief in David Puttnam as a producer.
He later recalled in My Indecision is Final: The Rise And Fall Of Goldcrest Films, the excellent book he co-wrote with Terry Ilott: "I had no idea however that Chariots Of Fire was to be the film that would change all our lives and set Goldcrest on its extraordinary trail of Oscar success."
It marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership with Puttnam, a rising star in the business – not so much a long and successful relationship, as short and successful. Puttnam also produced Local Hero.
But the triple whammy of Revolution (1985), Absolute Beginners (1986) and Puttnam's The Mission (1986) brought Goldcrest crashing back to earth.
Eberts had left Goldcrest before it shot those films. When it became clear the company may have overstretched itself, he returned temporarily to attempt to save the day. But the damage was done.
Goldcrest lost around £15m two-thirds of it on Revolution, the film that featured Al Pacino as an American revolutionary with Glasgow accent, and that did not turn Annie Lennox into a film star.
Eberts had already set up another company, Allied Film-makers, and was executive producer on The Name Of The Rose (1986), It was an adaptation of Umberto Eco's highbrow philosophical novel, which Eberts recalls pitching to potential backers as "medieval murder mystery in a monastery – Sean Connery". Eberts got backing, Connery got the British Academy Award for Best Actor.
Eberts's Oscar success with Driving Miss Daisy and Dances With Wolves was remarkable for different reasons. The former was an intimate drama, about an elderly Southern lady and her black chauffeur. It had already been turned down by all the major Hollywood studios when he was approached. He provided a big chunk of the budget and managed to persuade Warner Bros to come on board.
Dances With Wolves had been nicknamed "Kevin's Gate" an allusion to its star, Costner, and the previous financial failure of the Western Heaven's Gate, which effectively bankrupted United Artists.
It was a passion project for both Costner and Eberts, one of several that he would support that had Native American themes. It was also a big commercial hit.
Eberts had homes in several countries and continued to work internationally. Later films include James And The Giant Peach (1996), Chicken Run (2000) and The Illusionist (2010), the acclaimed animated feature that was set in Scotland in the 1950s.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
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