Former United Artists Exec Sandy Whitelaw Dies at 84

Alexander Whitelaw - S 2015
Courtesy of Steven-Charles Jaffe

Alexander Whitelaw - S 2015

The London native, also an actor and director, had worked with such luminaries as Fellini, Bertolucci and Pollack.

Alexander “Sandy” Whitelaw, an actor, director, producer and United Artists executive, has died. He was 84.

Whitelaw, who was UA’s West Coast executive and later the executive of production for UA Europe, died on Feb. 20 in Paris from lung cancer, according to his friend Steven-Charles Jaffe (producer of Ghost and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), who is the son of Whitelaw’s former boss, Herb Jaffe at UA.

A multifaceted entertainment executive, Whitelaw began his career as an assistant to producer David O. Selznick for 1957’s A Farewell to Arms, starring Rock Hudson. He also was a literary agent and assistant to Charles K. Feldman, an executive at production company Hecht-Lancaster and an exec in charge of casting for producer Ray Stark, working on such films as This Property Is Condemned (1966), directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, and John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

He then began his career at UA as the West Coast executive under Herb Jaffe, who later put Whitelaw in charge of production for UA Europe, for which he moved to London and worked on such films as Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972), Federico Fellini’s Roma (1972) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Decameron (1971).

Whitelaw also directed two films: Lifespan (1974), starring Klaus Kinski, and Vicious Circles (1997), starring Ben Gazzara. Lifespan, about a scientist trying to develop the formula for eternal life, won a prize at the Paris Sci-Fi Festival. In addition, he was an actor in more than a dozen films, including The American Friend (1977), Like a Turtle on Its Back (1978), Broken English (1981) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005).

Whitelaw was born in London on April 28, 1930. He was educated in Switzerland, attended Trinity College in Cambridge and studied sociology at Harvard, graduating in 1955. Following graduation, he represented Britain in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, as an alpine skier.

After his time at UA Europe, Whitelaw settled in Paris in the late 1970s and began a full-time career translating and subtitling films. Fluent in seven languages, he translated and subtitled more than 1,000 films by such directors as Michael Haneke, Eric Rohmer, Louis Malle and Jean-Luc Godard.

Whitelaw is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, whom he married in 1992.