Former U.A. exec Steven Bach dies

Oversaw 'Heaven's Gate,' 'The Parallax View'

ARLINGTON, Vt. --  Former United Artists movie executive Steven Bach, who oversaw the 1980 debacle "Heaven's Gate" and later wrote a memoir about it, has died.

Bach, who spent the last decade teaching literature at Bennington College, died of lung cancer March 25 at his home in Arlington, agent Robert Lescher said Tuesday. He was 70.

Bach, a native of Pocatello, Idaho, studied at the Sorbonne and Northwestern University and taught American literature before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked in public relations, earned a doctorate in film at the University of Southern California and worked for a decade as a story editor.

In the 1970s, he was a partner in Pantheon Pictures and helped produce the thrillers "The Parallax View," which starred Warren Beatty as a reporter investigating a senator's assassination, and "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," featuring Walter Matthau as a New York detective trying to save a hijacked subway car, before he moved to United Artists.

"Heaven's Gate," a western about land barons in 19th-century Wyoming, was supposed to be a $7.5 million feature by director Michael Cimino, but it evolved into a $36 million boondoggle. The box office bomb starred Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and John Hurt.

United Artists fired Bach after it, and in 1985 he told his side of the story in a memoir entitled "Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of 'Heaven's Gate."'

Among Bach's other books were "Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend" and "Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl."

At Bennington College, a memorial celebration is planned, but details weren't complete Tuesday.

Bennington President Elizabeth Coleman remembered Bach as a "writer, teacher, filmmaker, raconteur, friend."

"He became a beloved presence in this community almost immediately upon coming to Bennington," Coleman said in a statement posted on the college's Web site. "The range of his life from Hollywood studio head to writer and teacher was particularly expressive of the values of this college. And we will miss him sorely."

Bach is survived by his companion, Werner Roehr.