Saul Zaentz, described by The New York Times as ‘perhaps the last of the great independent producers,’ was called in a Variety profile ‘as close to an idealized version of what an independent film maker is as exists.’
In 1975 Zaentz’s first effort, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest directed by Milos Forman and starring Jack Nicholson, swept the top five Academy Awards including Best Picture. He produced the animated The Lord of the Rings in 1978. In 1984 Amadeus, his second collaboration with Forman, won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.
He acted as Executive Producer on The Mosquito Coast directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford. Zaentz then produced The Unbearable Lightness of Being starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin. The film was honored with three Oscar nominations.
In 1997 The English Patient, directed by Anthony Minghella, swept nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. At the Oscar ceremony Saul Zaentz received the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg memorial award ‘For A Consistently High Quality of Motion Picture Production.’
After serving in the Army during WWII Zaentz settled in San Francisco working in the burgeoning record business, followed with a job for music impresario Norman Granz in 1954 and 1955. Zaentz worked for Granz’s record company but he also managed Granz’s concert tours that took Zaentz on the road with Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz.
In 1955 Zaentz returned to San Francisco to join Fantasy Records, the first record company to record Dave Brubeck, Lenny Bruce and Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1967 Zaentz and a group of investors purchased Fantasy Records which became the largest jazz record label in the world.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awarded Saul Zaentz the Academy Fellowship in February 2003, the highest accolade presented by the Academy to individuals for their work and achievements throughout their film career.
Saul Zaentz recently completed principal photography of his latest film, Goya’s Ghosts which was directed by Milos Forman and extends their very successful collaboration. The film was shot in Spain and stars Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård.