A Hollywood producer is like the man behind the curtain, twiddling with knobs and pulling levers to make the fireworks go off on stage. Mike Medavoy is perhaps the most flamboyant example of this, having claimed a hand in the making of no fewer than 300 films, including "The Silence of the Lambs," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt."
Medavoy's beginnings were humble. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants who came to the U.S. by way of China and Chile, Medavoy started as a clerk in the mailroom of Universal Studios and eventually became an agent, working with directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Terrence Malick. As senior vice president of production for United Artists during the 1970s, Medavoy helped produce "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Rocky" and "Annie Hall."
In 1978, he cofounded Orion Pictures and produced a number of blockbusters, including "Dances With Wolves" and "Platoon." But it also backed a series of box office bombs that plunged Orion into bankruptcy in 1992. By then, Medavoy had already moved on to become chairman of TriStar Pictures. He was pushed out in 1994 after a clash with his bosses, Hollywood titans Peter Guber and Jon Peters.
Medavoy reflected on his career's hits and misses — and dished on various executives who crossed him — in a 2002 tell-all book, "You're Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good films and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot." In it, he readily admitted that he had suggested O.J. Simpson for the starring role in "The Terminator."
Among his closest friends was the actor Marlon Brando, who named Medavoy as the executor of his will. Medavoy's current and fourth wife, Irena, unsuccessfully sued a celebrity dermatologist in 2004 for a Botox procedure that she claimed caused migraines. The two have a son, Nicholas, born Jan. 21, 1998.
— Alex Pham for the Los Angeles Times July 7, 2010