Jerome Hellman, Producer of Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, Dead at 92

Everett Jerome Hellman in 1969     

Jerome Hellman, who produced films like Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, is dead at the age of 92.

Hellman’s wife Elizabeth confirmed her husband died at their home in South Egremont, Massachusetts, on Wednesday after a long illness, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The filmmaker suffered a stroke 12 years ago, Elizabeth added.

The New York native was best known for producing the 1969 buddy drama Midnight Cowboy, which won Best Picture at the 42nd Academy Awards. It was the first and only X-rated film to take home the ceremony’s top prize.

“I was so sure we weren’t going to win I didn’t even prepare a speech,” Hellman recalled in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2005. “I probably only said 10 words. It must’ve been the shortest speech in the history of the Oscars.”

Neilson Barnard/Getty Jerome Hellman in 2009     

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“I didn’t thank [director John Schlesinger] or the actors or my mother or father,” he continued. “All I remember is going to the Governors Ball and seeing [screenwriter] Ernie Lehman, who ran up to me and said, ‘Tonight, you’re the king.’ It was just one of those special times when the Academy somehow recognizes greatness.”

Aside from its Best Picture honor, Midnight Cowboy took home the Oscars for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Additionally, it was nominated for Best Actor twice (Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight), Best Supporting Actress (Sylvia Miles) and Best Film Editing.

Later in his career, Hellman received another Best Picture nomination for producing Hal Ashby’s 1978 war film Coming Home, which was up for eight Oscars and won three. It starred Voight, Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern.

Hellman’s films made an indelible mark on the movie industry during the 1970s, a time fondly known as “New Hollywood.” He produced movies alongside some of Hollywood’s iconic directors like Ashby, Schlesinger, George Roy Hill, Irvin Kershner and Peter Weir. 

The Oscar winner’s credits include Hill’s The World of Henry Orient (1964), Kershner’s A Fine Madness (1966), Schlesinger’s The Day of the Locust (1975) and Weir’s The Mosquito Coast (1986).

While Hellman stayed behind the scenes during most of his career, the producer made his acting debut and finale in Ashby’s 1979 classic Being There alongside Peter Sellers, who also starred in The World of Henry Orient 15 years earlier.

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