David Weisman, 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' Producer, Dies at 77

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David Weisman

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker dropped out of college to design film posters in Rome as a graphic artist after a viewing of Federico Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita.'

David Weisman, best known for producing the Academy Awards nominated Kiss of the Spider Woman, which earned William Hurt the best actor Oscar, has died. He was 77.

Weisman died Oct. 9 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles due to complications from neuroinvasive West Nile virus, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Born in Binghamton, N.Y., on March 11, 1942, Weisman attended Syracuse University's School of Fine Arts in the early 1960s.

Inspired by a screening of the classic Italian film La Dolce Vita, Weisman dropped out of college to design film posters in Rome, where he managed to meet Federico Fellini, for whom he created a poster for 8 1/2. Returning to New York, Weisman was hired by Otto Preminger to create the title sequence for Hurry Sundown and then became Preminger’s assistant on the film.

Weisman also designed the key art for The Boys in the Band, among many others. In 1967, with a splinter group from Andy Warhol’s Factory, Weisman began a five-year production for the cult classic Ciao! Manhattan, which he co-wrote and co-directed with Warhol alum John Palmer.

The film starred Edie Sedgwick, Roger Vadim, Brigid Berlin, Viva and Paul America. Weisman then worked as associate director on Nelson Lyon’s avant-garde film The Telephone Book and created an English-language film edited from a series of Japanese Samurai movies, which Roger Corman's New World Pictures released as Shogun Assassin.

Weisman's long collaboration with Leonard Schrader began on The Killing of America, a feature documentary about the evolution of U.S. violence that he wrote with Leonard and Chieko Schrader. In 1982, Weisman acquired the screen rights to Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman book and developed the film script with Schrader.

They began preproduction on the film with Burt Lancaster, Raul Julia and Sonia Braga in the lead roles, but in October 1983, as director Hector Babenco started filming in Brazil, William Hurt replaced an ailing Lancaster. When Babenco himself suffered a health crisis in 1984, Weisman completed the film's editing with Schrader.

Kiss of the Spider Woman eventually competed at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, where Hurt won the best actor award. The film also received Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay and the 1986 Oscar for best actor for Hurt.

“A gay and a commie in a jail cell, what a marketing nightmare," producer Weisman said of Kiss of the Spider Woman in a documentary about the Oscar-nominated movie.

In 1988, Weisman produced Paul Morrissey’s comedy Spike of Bensonhurst, starring Sasha Mitchell, Ernest Borgnine and Sylvia Miles. Weisman also produced Leonard Schrader's directorial debut, Naked Tango, which starred Vincent D'Onofrio, Mathilda May, Esai Morales and Fernando Rey.

In recent years Weisman developed several projects with Schrader, including Little K, based on a book by Adrienne Sharp. Weisman is survived by his brother, film and TV director Sam Weisman, sister-in-law Constance McCashin, nephew Daniel Weisman and niece Margaux Weisman.