It’s not without irony that Robert Evans died the morning after the Governor’s Awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences. The following is a letter sent by producer-director Brett Ratner to the Academy on behalf of Evans, suggesting he be awarded the Irving Thalberg Award. Ratner is correct in everything he says. We wouldn’t have modern Hollywood with Robert Evans. Ratner says he had Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson send letters as well, but nothing came of it. The irony is that Evans once played Thalberg in the movie “The Man of a Thousand Faces.”
Ratner has also given me a quote from “Chinatown” writer Robert Towne: “Bob Evans remains, in memory and in life, a standard for every kind of human generosity, and one I have yet to see matched in this town.” A photo Ratner took of them accompanies this story.
Here’s the letter:
Ms. Dawn Hudson, CEO
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
8949 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90211Dear Dawn,I am writing on behalf of Producer Robert Evans. I wanted to express my passion for suggesting that Mr. Evans receive the Academy’s most prestigious Irving Thalberg Award.
Robert Evans is a giant of a man – giant in his accomplishments, giant in his vision, giant in his loyalty and concern towards others, giant in his energy and passion in making films, giant in his generosity of spirit. He has always given more to this industry than he took. He made us all that had the benefit of knowing him feel important and good. He considered nothing impossible. He inspired us filmmakers to perform beyond the limits of our abilities and made us better than we were. There was a personal side to every relationship with Mr. Evans. It was never all business. He derived his success from his relationships with people, not his position in Hollywood. The screenwriter Robert Towne, who wrote CHINATOWN for Mr. Evans once wrote “Bob Evans remains, in memory and in life, a standard for every kind of human generosity, and one I have yet to see matched in this town.”
This email is not meant to do anything more than to explain to those who sit on the Board of the Academy the reasons why Mr. Robert Evans truly deserves this honor. If nothing more than his contribution to this industry for the films he produced, for the generations of filmmakers that have been inspired by these films in creating their own, and the gift of these many great films for future generations to study and learn from. What better gift can we give one of cinema’s creative producing heroes than the most prestigious honor our industry has named after one of the greatest producers ever, Irving Thalberg?
Dustin Hoffman said in his speech at the 14th Producers Guild Awards in 2003, when he presented Mr. Evans with the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award; “In his notes for Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller said that his play came from images. The image of aging, of so many of your friends already gone, of strangers in the seats of the mighty, who do not know you, or your triumphs, or your incredible value. Above all, perhaps, the image of a need greater than hunger or sex or thirst, a need to leave a thumbprint somewhere on the world. The need for immortality, and by admitting it, the knowing that one has carefully inscribed one’s name on a cake of ice on a hot July day. Bob understands this irony. He has always understood it. It’s what makes him Bob…. I never met a producer like Bob before; I never met a producer like Bob period. To know him and to work with him is to understand the engine that put Chinatown, Love Story, Rosemary’s baby, Marathon Man, The Godfather 1 and 2, and many other films up there on the screen and beyond into film history…. Relentless, pathologically enthusiastic, not unlike Willy Loman (in Death of a Salesman). As Arthur Miller put it, He’s out there on a smile and a shoeshine. A salesman’s got a dream, it comes with the territory.” I am sure that Mr. Evans dreams were to make great films for us to enjoy and not to win awards. In spite of this, my only hope is that we can reciprocate and give him what would be the icing on the cake for a man whose career and body of work very few people in this industry have had. I know Mr. Evans would consider receiving the Irving Thalberg Award as the greatest honor of his 86 years of life.
Mr. Hoffman further added in his speech, “A producer’s got to dream, it comes with the territory. Robert Evans is simply a man of dreams, a man of heart, a man of passion, a man who loves making films as much if not more than anyone.”
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this request on behalf of Mr. Evans.
-With deepest respect and enormous gratitude.
Brett Ratner’s photo of Evans and Towne: