Agent, studio president
Repped Spielberg, headed ColumbiaGuy McElwaine, who rose from the publicity department at MGM to become one of Hollywood's top agents, studio executives and producers, died at his home in Bel-Air on Wednesday after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
McElwaine plied his trade as an agent at both the Creative Management Agency, and its successor ICM, but also effortlessly shifted from to seller to buyer to serve executive stints at Warner Bros. and Columbia. Most recently, he was president of Morgan Creek Prods.
"He had the utmost integrity when it came to anything that he ever did," Morgan Creek chairman and CEO James G. Robinson said. "I had a name for Guy — the mayor of Morgan Creek. In other words, he was extremely well-liked here. He was a very decent person."
As a teenager, McElwaine held down summer jobs at Paramount before beginning his career at MGM's fabled publicity department. He eventually opened his own management and public relations company, representing such clients as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Warren Beatty and the Mamas and the Papas.
He shifted into the agency business at CMA in 1969 but then was lured away by Warners, where he served as senior executive vp worldwide production during the early 1970s, where he was involved in such seminal movies as "All the President's Men," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Barry Lyndon."
After CMA was sold to the International Famous Agency and ICM was born in 1974, McElwaine returned as a founding partner, overseeing the agency's motion picture activities.
Among his clients was the young Steven Spielberg, then just breaking into film. During the course of repping the director on his early features, McElwaine made a precedent-setting, pre-break gross deal on "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"Guy was a good friend and a fabulous representative of my career in its early stages," Spielberg said. "He represented his clients the same way he maintained his friendships. With loyalty, great care, and a fabulous sense of humor."
In 1981, McElwaine crossed back into the studio ranks as president of Columbia Pictures, where he eventually became chairman and CEO. He was involved in supervising production and distribution of more than 60 motion pictures including "Ghostbusters," "The Karate Kid," David Lean's "A Passage to India" and "Ghandi."
In 1985, he was voted Motion Picture Executive of the Year by the Motion Picture Exhibitors. But before the decade ended, he returned to ICM for yet a third stint of repping talent.
McElwaine moved on in 1998 to become president and COO of Trilogy Entertainment Group, where he partnered with Pen Densham, John Watson and Richard Lewis. He joined Morgan Creek in 2002, and as its president, he exec produced "Two for the Money," with Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey; "The Good Shepherd," directed by Robert DeNiro; and "Man of the Year," starring Robin Williams. He recently produced the Morgan Creek/Universal Pictures film "Sydney White" starring Amanda Bynes.
On Tuesday night, Robinson paid a final visit to McElwaine, who was surrounded by his family as he slipped into a coma. "I'm going to miss the mayor," Robinson said.
McElwaine is survived by his children, Erin Ozar, Dawn Taubin, Alexandra Grane and Daniel McElwaine; and grandchildren Collin, Garrett, and Aimee Ozar; Kendall and Lacey Taubin; and Elizabeth and Julia Grane. His daughter, Katharine, died last year.
A viewing will be held Friday from 3-5 p.m. at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles, followed by his funeral at the same location at 2 p.m. Saturday.
In lieu of flowers, his family has requested donations be made to the William H. Isakoff, MD Research Foundation for Gastrointestinal Cancer.
Carly Mayberry contributed to this report.