Longtime producer Stuart Cornfeld, 67, died June 26 of cancer, but left a mark on Hollywood with collaborations with iconic directors and a run of hit movies dating back to 1980.
As a film student at the American Film Institute in the 1970s he worked with Anne Bancroft, who went on to introduce him to Mel Brooks. Cornfeld was an assistant on Brooks’ 1977 comedy “High Anxiety,” and the two men teamed as executive producers on David Lynch’s 1980 “The Elephant Man.”
Cornfeld went on to produce David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” which put the Canadian body-horror master on the map. Cornfeld also produced Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka,” the young filmmaker’s first movie after the 1989 indie sensation “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” and the Vince Gilligan-scripted “Wilder Napalm.”
But Cornfeld’s closest collaboration was with filmmaker and actor Ben Stiller, with whom he launched Red Hour Productions and turned out a string of hit comedies including “Zoolander,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Dodgeball,” “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” “Blades of Glory,” and “Tropic Thunder.” In the 2010s, Cornfeld turned to indies and television, including Richard Ayoade’s cult hit “Submarine” and the reality-TV-skewering web series “Burning Love.”
“Better Call Saul” executive producer Mark Johnson, who first worked with Cornfeld on “High Anxiety,” told IndieWire that It’s hard to imagine a world without Cornfeld.
“All of us knew that he had a terminal illness, but you’re never prepared,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be without Stuart in the world. It’s almost impossible to describe. He was a force of humor, of passion. He was on the forefront of independent filmmaking, [but also] just plain good filmmaking. In an effort to hang out with the cool people, he overlooked the fact that he was the coolest one in the room.”
Johnson also revealed that Spanish painter Joan Bofill is at work on a documentary about Cornfeld, which the producer said is “remarkable because of who Stuart was.”
Anne Thompson contributed reporting.
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