Stuart Cornfeld, 'Zoolander' and 'Tropic Thunder' Producer, Dies at 67

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Stuart Cornfeld

While he worked on such earlier films as David Cronenberg's 'The Fly' and Steven Soderbergh's 'Kafka,' it was with his nearly two-decade association with Ben Stiller that he made his biggest mark.

Stuart Cornfeld, the longtime producing partner of Ben Stiller who guided such comedies as Zoolander, Dodgeball and Tropic Thunder, has died. He was 67.

Cornfeld died of cancer, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. No other details of his death were immediately available.

While his earlier career saw him produce such fare as the David Cronenberg remake of The Fly in 1986 and the 1991 Steven Soderbergh movie Kafka, it was with his nearly two-decade association with Stiller where he made his mark.

Born in Tarzana in 1952, Cornfeld was part of the American Film Institute class of 1975. He worked with Anne Bancroft on two Directing Workshop for Women projects, which opened a doorway for him into Hollywood. She introduced him to her husband, Mel Brooks, who hired Cornfeld as his assistant on High Anxiety (1977).

Cornfeld went on to associate produce the Bancroft-directed Fatso (1980) and the Brooks-directed History of the World: Part 1 (1981) and to executive produce the Brooks-produced The Elephant Man (1980).

Cornfeld's 1990s output was sporadic — he produced Glenn Gordon Caron's Wilder Napalm (1993) and worked with Guillermo del Toro on Mimic (1997) — but in 1999, he partnered with Stiller to launch Red Hour Films, ushering in movies that made their mark on the comedy scene.

Starting with Zoolander (2001), starring Stiller and Owen Wilson, the Cornfeld-Stiller partnership yielded Duplex (2003) with Stiller and Drew Barrymore, Starsky & Hutch (2004) with Stiller and Wilson, Dodgeball (2004) with Stiller and Vince Vaughn, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006) with Jack Black and David Grohl, Blades of Glory (2007) with Will Ferrell and Will Arnett, horror thriller The Ruins (2008) with Jena Malone and Tropic Thunder (2008) with Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr. and Stiller in the first decade of the 2000s.

Thunder earned an Academy Award nomination for Downey and Golden Globe noms for Downey and Tom Cruise. The film won best comedy at the Broadcast Critics Film Awards and the Hollywood Film Awards.

More recently, Cornfeld produced the Black-starrer The Polka King (2017) and had moved into television, executive producing The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail and Another Period, among other shows.

Cornfeld unofficially retired from the entertainment business about two years ago. He said he had lost interest in movies and thought it was time to step aside.

"There's nothing terribly important about a producer, I believe," Cornfeld told American Film magazine in 2013, the year he received AFI's Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal. "I mean, honestly, what you want to do is just make the films that you work on better. And I think that I really, really, really like working with strong directors. It's an incredibly difficult job to do well, and I've been very lucky to work with a lot of people who do it really well."

He is survived by his ex-wife, performance artist Johanna Went, and sisters Lois and Ellen.