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Gerald Ayres, a former Columbia Pictures executive who produced Jack Nicholson’s The Last Detail and wrote the screenplay for George Cukor’s final film, has died. He was 82.
Ayres died April 7 of complications from dementia at a hospice facility in Watertown, New York, his spouse, Guy Ayres, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Ayres also produced Cisco Pike (1972), starring Kris Kristofferson, Gene Hackman and Karen Black, and wrote and produced Foxes (1980), which starred Jodie Foster in a coming-of-age-tale set in the San Fernando Valley. (Ayres also was set to direct that film, but the studio replaced him with Adrian Lyne.)
Ayres received a WGA Award for his adaptation of the John Van Druten 1941 play Old Acquaintance that became Rich and Famous (1981). Starring Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen, it was the last feature to be directed by the Oscar-winning Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, My Fair Lady).
Born in San Diego on Feb. 3, 1936, Ayres attended Yale University, then came to New York to write for the theater.
He landed a job as a story analyst in the New York office of Columbia before moving to Hollywood in 1964 to serve as an assistant to Mike Frankovich, who had just been named vice president in charge of production at the studio.
In 1968, Frankovich departed to become an independent producer at Columbia, and Ayres eventually was named vp creative affairs, serving as a producer on Model Shop (1969), directed by Jaques Demy and starring Anouk Aimee and Gary Lockwood.
Ayres left Columbia with a three-picture deal and formed Acrobat Productions. The two movies to come out of that were Cisco Pike, with Kristofferson portraying a drug dealer in his first starring role, and The Last Detail (1973). For the latter, Ayres had acquired the rights to Darryl Ponicsan’s novel.
Helmed by Hal Ashby, The Last Detail received three Oscar noms: for best actor (Nicholson), supporting actor (Randy Quaid) and adapted screenplay (Robert Towne). Ayres had brought the production to film in Canada, one of the first Hollywood producers to do that.
His work for television included writing the telefilms Stormy Weathers and Holly Hunter’s Crazy in Love, both of which aired in 1992, and 1995’s Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, starring Sherilyn Fenn.
Ayres published two memoirs, Everywhere Hollywood in 2016 and The Apple Bites Back last year.
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