*In response to the death of producer Jake Eberts this week, frequent collaborator and film publicist Pete Daly asked if he could pay tribute to him. Here is his personal obituary for Eberts.*
The word “legend” is thrown around in film like cheap popcorn, but for Jake Eberts, who died on September 6 aged 71, the label seems almost an understatement. Despite not entering the industry until his mid-30s, Eberts produced or financed over 50 films, garnering 65 Academy nominations and winning 37 Oscars.
Canadian-born, Jake was working in the City of London when approached to invest in the development of Watership Down. When this made a profit he re-invested the funds into the film’s production, and was bitten by the movie bug.
It was not long before Eberts almost single-handedly dragged the British film industry out of an abyss of soft porn and TV spin-offs. Commercial success and critical acclaim followed, with Jake involved in slew of hits including Ghandi, The Dresser, Chariots of Fire, Driving Miss Daisy, Chicken Run and Dances With Wolves.
Kevin Costner once said to me (Jake would appreciate the name-dropping), “Hollywood is full of people who either have intelligence or integrity. Jake is the only one with both”.
I was privileged to have worked with Jake for the last ten years or so (he emailed me a script a mere six days before his death). In a business apparently powered by ego, aggression and arrogance here was a gentle and modest man who had more reason to boast than most, but chose to let his spiritual and deep movies (from Open Range to The Killing Fields) do the talking for him.