Passing of a Hollywood Great:
John Heyman, Producer, Agent, Film Financier Dies at 84
John Heyman, producer, agent and film financier died on June 9, 2017 at age 84.
In 2014, Movieguide® honored John Heyman with a lifetime achievement award. People pay attention to the famous actors and celebrities, but John was the genius behind the scenes who created the movies and television programs that propelled his clients to international stardom, clients such as: Richard Burton, Michael Caine, Burt Bacharach, Richard Harris, and Elizabeth Taylor. Not only did he represent these celebrities and entertainers, he also produced, packaged or co-financed more than 188 Academy Award nominees, 26 Oscar winners and three Grand Prix winners at the Cannes Film festival.
Dr. Ted Baehr got to know John in the late 1970s when John asked for Ted’s advice on The Genesis Project, where he was turning the whole Bible into word-for-word films. Dr. Bill Bright heard about John’s project and asked John to edit a feature film out of the Gospel of Luke: THE JESUS FILM, which was 60% of the Gospel of Luke. THE JESUS FILM not only became a best-selling theatrical movie in 1979 for Warner Bros., it also became one of the most-watched movies of all time since it has been seen by over 2 billion people around the world and translated into more languages than any other movie.
John and Ted Baehr had many friendly debates discussing theology. In spite of the fact that John was a committed Jew, he had a heart for the Gospel and wanted a deeper movie than just the easy believism of many church movies. He actually wanted to get the Gospel out.
John financed and/or produced an eclectic group of movies. Some of those movies are beloved by Movieguide®, such as AWAKENINGS, TOY SOLDIERS, THE SANDLOT, but he also produced movies Movieguide® didn’t find redemptive, such as THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and, of course, he financed some great movies such as CHINATOWN, MARATHON MAN and THE GO-BETWEEN.
John and Ted were always good friends and met several times a year to discuss the motion picture industry and theology. His son, David, produced the HARRY POTTER movies, GRAVITY, PADDINGTON, and is still going strong.
John frequently remarked on the Scripture verses Dr. Baehr emails every day, which always witness to the Good News. At one point, he had expressed that he had accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior, but later when discussing it, he would always talk about the frailty of the Church and the flaws of believers. He was searching for a deeper truth, and we pray that he found it. Because of his wit, wisdom and creativity, it would be great to see him at the Heavenly Banquet hosted by Jesus whom he promoted to billions of people through THE JESUS FILM.
Movieguide®’s 2014 tribute to John honored him with the Visionary Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Visionary Award – Producer John Heyman
John Heyman, producer and co-director of the 1979 movie The JESUS Film, was given the Visionary Award for his work on JESUS and as founder of The Genesis Project.
“The Visionary Award is given to an individual with vision,” Publisher Ted Baehr said, “the vision to enlighten and inspire the world.”
“By the time John was 23,” said Producer Larry Thompson of AMISH GRACE, LIZ & DICK, LUCY AND DESI: BEFORE THE LAUGHTER, THE 22ND ANNUAL MOVIEGUIDE® AWARDS, and many other TV programs, “he had sold three Top 10 rated shows in Britain and was head of public relations for Associated Television. He went on to form the largest independent talent agency outside the United States, representing such stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, and many others. In 1963, he founded the first foreign sales company, pre-selling English language movies globally. It was the first in a series of companies which have been producers, packagers, co-financiers, distributors of movies that have garnered 188 Academy Award nominations, 26 Oscars, and three Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.”
“Close to his heart,” Dr. Baehr said, “is the creation of the Genesis Project, a scholarly film translation of the Bible, portions of this work which became known as The JESUS Film, which has been seen by more people than any other movie in the world and has been translated in over 1200 languages.”
“Currently,” Thompson added, “John is in pre-production on a number of projects, including a 12-hour miniseries entitled THE FORBIDDEN CITY. His son, David Heyman, is also a very successful producer and has produced such movies as GRAVITY.”
In addition to the above credits, John Heyman also has co-financed such major movies as CHINATOWN, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, HEAVEN CAN WAIT, HOME ALONE, AWAKENINGS, GREASE, and SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
“I’ve always been a bit skeptical about awards, to be honest,” Heyman told the audience.
“Although it is the 46th time, believe it or not, that I will be voting for the Academy Awards, I’ve never understood how you decide that Paul Scofield’s performance in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS was better than Richard Burton’s in VIRGINIA WOOLF. Or, why THE KING’S SPEECH was a better film than SOCIAL NETWORK. So, although I am extremely skeptical about awards, you [may well] ask me, ‘Well, what are you doing here?’ What is a nice Jewish boy doing accepting an award?
“Well, there are a lot of reasons.
“First of all, obviously it’s an ego trip for anybody. I mean, for anybody to say you’re a visionary is kind of silly. This is only the second time I’ve ever really been to an awards, ever. The first time was when the National Association of Theater Owners made my son, believe it or not, the producer of the century. Now, I’m here on an equally strange reason.
“The real reason I’m here is, ever since I started the Gospel of Luke onto film, Ted Baehr has challenged me morally and spiritually. We’ve had an infinite number of dialectic discussions. We have not always agreed. …If it weren’t for Ted Baehr to constantly warn us, as he does the readers of the Movieguide® and the millions of people who listen to the radio show, and now those people who are added as Internet viewers, of our responsibilities morally, and we need to think about the consequences of our actions, it would be a poorer world. So, I thank and I praise Ted for allowing us all to participate.
“I also want to tell you that the best productions I have ever made are my five children, and I’m batting 100 percent in that regard – David and Lil and Gabrielle and now Dahlia and Daniel are my best friends. If I add to them my wonderful wife, Nizza, that’s pizza with an N instead of a P, 50 percent of my best friends are here with me tonight. If I actually thanked everybody who contributed to this long journey, all of those who accepted me and all of those who rejected me, we’d be here all night. So, I just want to tell you one little, vital story.”
Heyman then told the Gala audience about his near-fatal car accident 29 years ago while driving to Pinewood Studios in England. He hit a 16-wheeled truck and the steering wheel punctured his chest, hitting his heart and driving it through his back, but he survived.
“When I woke up on April the Fourth,” he said, “there were 6,000 letters from people who had prayed for my survival. People who had studied the New Reader Bible were praying for me. So, I have to tell you (with some arrogance) that I am a living, talking, walking example of the power of prayer. Many had thought, ‘He’s dead. Well, if he lives, he’ll be brain dead.’ By the way, a lot of people still think that maybe I am. ‘He’ll never walk again. He’ll never talk again.’ Now, nearly 30 years later, I hope you’ll pray that the Visionary Award means I will see well enough and hear well enough that I’ll know what to do in the last act of my life.”
John’s son, David, who also produced the Movieguide® Award winning movies I AM LEGEND, GRAVITY and PADDINGTON, sent a video message to the Awards:
“Hi, Dad. I’m really sorry I can’t be with you to celebrate this great award, and many thanks to the Movieguide® Awards, by the way, for giving my father this award. I can’t think of anybody more deserving. He really is the most wonderful and inspiring man. He is a fundamental reason why I do what I do and the way I do it. He’s shown me so much about decency, loyalty, ethics, and passion. I’m grateful for all the lessons you’ve given me and couldn’t be more grateful to have you as my father and as my best friend. I love you, Dad, and congratulations on this great honor.”