The Kid Exits the Picture: Robert Evans and Paramount Part Ways After 52 Years (Exclusive)

Robert Evans - H - 2019

He first joined Paramount in 1967, at just 36, as its youngest-ever production chief, and then transitioned into producing such films as 'Chinatown' and 'Rosemary's Baby.'

The Kid is leaving the picture, or at least stepping into a new one.

Robert Evans, one of the most colorful figures in Hollywood history, and Paramount Pictures, the studio with which he has been closely associated for more than a half-century, are parting ways after Paramount declined earlier this month to renew its deal with Robert Evans Productions.

The production shingle, which was created in 1974 after Evans stepped away from running the studio to focus on producing, has been based on the Melrose Avenue lot. Overhead provided by the studio covered the employment of Evans and, until recently, at least two others, Jay Sikura, head of development, and Michael Alfred, an executive assistant. But the operation has not produced work that has come to fruition since 2003's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Evans, now 89 and in frail health, has mostly worked out of Woodland, his fabled Beverly Hills home, rather than the lot.

Paramount's decision not to extend the deal, which had previously been re-upped regularly, comes as studios all over Hollywood are reducing overhead costs associated with non-writing producers. And Evans, for some, represents a link to an era when the studio had a reputation as a boys club, out of step with the current climate of the #MeToo movement. 

Still, the move surprised some in Evans' orbit, who were of the understanding that Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Paramount's parent company Viacom, had promised Evans that his studio contract and office would remain for life, in appreciation for Evans' contributions to the studio. (The studio kept veteran producer turned goodwill ambassador A.C. Lyles in his office and on the payroll until his death at the age of 95 in 2013, even after Lyles faced a barrage of sexual harassment allegations.)

Redstone, now 96 and in poor health, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Evans tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Paramount wanted me to remake my 1997 movie The Saint. I don't want to remake The Saint — there are other pictures that I want to do — so they decided not to extend my deal. I understand that and have no hard feelings. I've had a great run at the studio and wish them the best."

Paramount, for its part, tells THR: "Bob Evans has been an iconic part of the Paramount legacy for over half a century. His contributions to the studio and film industry have been innumerable, from Rosemary's Baby to The Godfather to Love Story, to name just a few. Today we mark the end of our formal relationship with Bob as a producer, but his legacy will endure in our studio and in our hearts. There aren't words to express our gratitude and reverence for the man whose name is synonymous with this company and the magic of movies."

The studio added, "We're proud to announce the dedication of the Robert Evans Screening Room, may many more generations of film lovers share his passion for great cinema. We wish him the very best."

A clothier turned actor turned producer, Evans was appointed Paramount's production chief in 1967, at the age of just 36, as part of a youth wave in Hollywood. Under his watch, the studio surged from ninth to first in profitability, pumping out blockbusters such as Love Story and The Godfather. In 1974, he transitioned to independent producing, with credits including Chinatown, Marathon Man and Rosemary's Baby. In 1994, Evans became a folk hero, of sorts, thanks to his colorful memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture (and its accompanying audiobook), which was turned into a documentary in 2002.