Oscar-winning film producer Saul Zaentz dies | hollywood | Hindustan Times
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Oscar-winning film producer Saul Zaentz dies

hollywood Updated: Jan 06, 2014 10:07 IST

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Producer Saul Zaentz, who won three best picture Oscars, has died at the age of 92. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and died at his San Francisco home, his nephew and longtime business partner Paul said, reported Variety.

Zaentz began his career as a music producer, before turning to filmmaking at age 50.

He won the Best Picture Academy Awards in 1976 for 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', in 1985 for 'Amadeus' and in 1997 for 'The English Patient'.

Zaentz was not prolific as a movie producer, instead specialised in complex literary adaptations that Hollywood studios generally found too intricate to put on film.

Since moving into film with 1972's low-budget country-music drama 'Payday', Zaentz produced just 10 movies, giving him a remarkable three-for-10 batting average on Best Picture wins at the Oscars.

Among Zaentz's other films were the 1978 animated version of 'The Lord of the Rings', which later paved the way for the blockbuster live-action trilogy.

He also brought out the 1986 Harrison Ford drama 'The Mosquito Coast'; 1998's acclaimed 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', which co-starred 'The English Patient' Oscar winner Juliette Binoche; and 1991's 'At Play in the Fields of the Lord', a critical and commercial flop despite a cast that included Kathy Bates, Tom Berenger and John Lithgow.

Born February 28, 1921, in Passaic, New Jersey, Zaentz earned a degree in poultry husbandry from Rutgers University. During World War II, he served in Africa and Sicily and aboard troop ships in the North Atlantic and Pacific.

After the war, Zaentz attended business college and moved to San Francisco, where he worked for a small record distributor and later joined jazz producer Norman Granz, working on recordings and concerts.

Zaentz entered the movie business after growing bored with his successful recording-industry career, which included the Fantasy Records label he bought in 1967.

Zaentz is survived by four children: Dorian, Joshua, Athena, and Jonnie; seven grandchildren, and his nephew. PTI JCH