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Mace Neufeld, the producer who backed all five movies based on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan CIA analyst, including The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, has died. He was 93.
Neufeld, a former talent/personal manager who represented the likes of Don Adams and The Carpenters, wrote a song for Sammy Davis Jr. and snapped a famous post-World War II photograph that was a contender for the Pulitzer Prize, died Friday in his sleep at his Beverly Hills home, a member of his production company told The Hollywood Reporter.
A Neufeld company also produced the groundbreaking 1980s CBS cop drama Cagney & Lacey as well as ABC’s eight-hour John Steinbeck miniseries East of Eden, for which he received an Emmy nomination in 1981 for outstanding limited series.
His first film as an executive producer was the classic horror thriller The Omen (1976), and he was a driving force behind such features as the Cold War spy classic No Way Out (1987), starring Kevin Costner, and the South Africa-set Invictus (2009), directed by Clint Eastwood.
Neufeld also produced movies that re-imagined previous movies or TV shows, including Val Kilmer’s The Saint (1997), the adventure Lost in Space (1998) and the action-packed The Equalizer (2014), starring Denzel Washington.
In 1989, Neufeld partnered with Robert Rehme, a future president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to form Neufeld/Rehme Productions, based at Paramount. His production background complemented Rehme’s executive and marketing expertise, and they were feted as NATO/ShoWest Producers of the Year in 1993.
In the mid-1980s, Neufeld sent one of his development execs to the Dallas Book Fair, and he returned to recommend Clancy’s debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, a work of fiction published by the Naval Institute Press. The book centers on a renegade Russian who has a new-age submarine at his command.
“About a month after I optioned it [in 1984], there was an article in either Time or Newsweek where Ronald Reagan said it was his favorite book of the year,” he recalled in a 2014 interview. “I had just closed the deal to option the book and thought I was home free, but I took it to every studio in town and I got turned down. I had an 18-month option, so I had to extend it again.”
Eventually, Paramount agreed to make the movie, but only if Neufeld could get the U.S. Navy to cooperate.
Neufeld did, of course, and The Hunt for Red October (1990) — directed by John McTiernan and starring Sean Connery as the Russian submarine commander and Alec Baldwin as Ryan — grossed more than $200 million ($368 million today) at the worldwide box office.
Other films based on Clancy novels followed: 1992’s Patriot Games (with Harrison Ford as Ryan), 1994’s Clear and Present Danger (Ford again) and 2002’s The Sum of All Fears (Ben Affleck). Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), starring Chris Pine, was fashioned from an original screenplay by David Koepp and Adam Cozad.
Neufeld also is listed as a producer on the Jack Ryan series at Amazon that stars John Krasinski and bowed in 2017.
Other Neufeld films that contained military themes included Flight of the Intruder (1991), The General’s Daughter (1999) and the Civil War epic Gods and Generals (2003).
The son of a stockbroker, Morris Alvin Neufeld was born on July 13, 1928, in New York City. During his senior year at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, he was on his way to work as a photographer for a dress store when he came across a soldier on crutches emerging from a taxi in November 1944.
As the man’s parents came out of a building to embrace him and welcome him home from the war, Neufeld snapped a photo and sold copies to The New York Daily News (which devoted a full page to it) and an international news service for $250 apiece. The photo was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Neufeld was offered photography scholarships at the University of Ohio and USC but chose to attend Yale, where his classmates included George H.W. Bush and Alan J. Pakula. He landed a job as a production assistant at the DuMont television network and dabbled in music, writing for such artists as Davis (the 1956 song “The Blues to End the Blues”), Rosemary Clooney and the Ritz Brothers.
He also composed the theme for the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon about two magpies.
Neufeld then formed his own independent TV production company and personal management firm, which eventually brought him from New York to Los Angeles. He went on to represent, among others, musical acts Dorothy Loudon, Jim Croce, Randy Newman, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, The Captain and Tennille, Neil Diamond, Lou Rawls and Neil Sedaka; writers Allan Burns, Chris Hayward, Jay Ward, Buck Henry and Calder Willingham; and actors Katharine Ross, Dyan Cannon, Shirley Booth, John Davidson, Bill Dana, Don Knotts, Gabe Kaplan and James Caan.
Neufeld ventured into film production with Richard Donner‘s The Omen and got out of the management game for good in 1979. He went on to produce other features including The Frisco Kid (1979), The Funhouse (1981), The Aviator (1985), Transylvania 6-5000 (1985), Necessary Roughness (1991), Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), Blind Faith (1998), Bless the Child (2000) and Sahara (2005).
In 2003, Neufeld received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Survivors include his second wife, Diane; daughter Nancy Neufeld Callaway, a former production exec at Fox and writer on such shows as Married … With Children and In Living Color; sons Brad and Glenn; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
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