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Jake Eberts, a producer and film financier whose movies — including best-picture winners Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Dances With Wolves and Driving Miss Daisy — captured 37 Oscars, died Thursday in his Montreal hometown following a brief illness. He was 71.
Eberts’ feature credits also include The Dresser (1983), The Killing Fields (1984), Hope and Glory (1987), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Black Robe (1991), A River Runs Through It (1992), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Grey Owl (1999), Chicken Run (2000) and The Illusionist (2010).
Eberts recently served as chairman of National Geographic Films, which distributed the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penquins (2005) under his watch. He financed or produced more than 50 films during his career in the movies, which didn’t begin until he was 35 and included the founding of famed British independent upstart Goldcrest Films.
Eberts’ most recent project was Jerusalem, an Imax 3D documentary set for release in 2013. He also was developing a $60-million film project in China and, with Chariots of Fire director Hugh Hudson, a nature film to be shot throughout Canada.
“He was an extraordinary film producer and an extraordinary man,” director Denys Arcand, a Quebec native and close friend of Eberts, told The Montreal Gazette. “He took filmmaking seriously. He felt cinema should be used to better mankind. This is a lofty standard in an age where movies are being adapted from comic books. He had such noble ideals and morals.”
Eberts started out as an engineer and diesel-engine salesman before entering the financial world with Oppenheimer & Co. in London and then on Wall Street, where he teamed with an investment banker dealing in risk capital. At age 35, he began melding that expertise with the film business.
Eberts founded Goldcrest in the late 1970s with producer David Puttnam, and Chariots of Fire and Gandhi won back-to-back best-picture Oscars in 1982 and 1983, respectively. But Goldcrest began making more expensive films with high-priced Hollywood stars and floundered.
Eberts resigned from Goldcrest in 1984, returned a year later in a bid to rescue it and then exited a final time in 1987. He wrote about his tumultuous stay with the company in his 1990 memoir, My Indecision Is Final: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Goldcrest Films, the Independent Studio That Challenged Hollywood.
Eberts then launched Allied Filmmakers, the production company behind such movies as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) and Super Mario Bros. (1993).
Survivors include his wife Fiona and children Alex, Dave and Lindsay.
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