Former studio head Ned Tanen dies at 77

Greenlighted 'E.T.,' 'Breakfast Club,' 'Sixteen Candles'

Ned Tanen, a former Universal Pictures and Paramount chairman who greenlighted a string of hits including "Top Gun" and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," has died. He was 77.

Tanen died Monday at his Santa Monica home, his friend Alisa Covington said.

"He taught me about integrity, that it was never about the flavor of the month, that it was always about the talent," former Paramount Motion Picture Group head Sherry Lansing said. "And he had a wicked sense of humor."

Tanen's entertainment career began with MCA in 1954. He became a talent agent, packaged television shows and then founded MCA's Uni Records, which helped launch stars such as Neil Diamond, Elton John and Olivia Newton-John.

In the 1970s he moved to MCA's movie division, Universal Pictures, where he was involved in "American Graffiti," a low-budget movie by then-unknown director George Lucas.

He was president of Universal from 1976 to 1982, a tenure marked by Oscar-winning successes such as "Coal Miner's Daughter," "E.T." and "On Golden Pond."

He quit at the height of his success, telling the Wall Street Journal he was tired of playing the "Hollywood game" and wanted to concentrate on the creative side of movies.

Tanen went independent. He was producer or executive producer for three movies in the 1980s that portrayed the angst of white youth: "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" by director John Hughes and Joel Schumacher's "St. Elmo's Fire."

The young actors in those movies included Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez.

"He launched so many people's careers," Schumacher said. "He believed in you, and he would put his money where his mouth was."

In 1984, Tanen rejoined the studio establishment as president and chief operating officer of Paramount's Motion Picture Group. During his four years there, Paramount had hits such as "Top Gun" and "Ghost."

Tanen returned to producing in the 1990s.

Tanen is survived by his partner, Donna Dubrow; daughters Sloane Tanen and Tracy James, and three grandchildren.