Robert Evans, Legendary Producer And Studio Head Behind 'The Godfather' And 'Chinatown', Is Dead At 89

Robert Evans, the producer and former Paramount executive who played a major hand in films like ChinatownThe Godfather, and more, has died at 89. Evans' time in Hollywood began with a short-lived acting career, but by the 1960s he had moved into producing. He would eventually rise to become the head of Paramount Pictures, and helped save the flailing studio with a series of films still hailed as classics to this day. Evans' life was chronicled in the documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, and he briefly lent his voice and persona to the animated series Kid Notorious.ChinatownMarathon ManThe GodfatherSerpico. Urban Cowboy. These films, and more, have one major thing in common: Robert Evans. Evans, who died over the weekend at the age of 89, had what might be the wildest and most unexpected career in the history of anyone in Hollywood, and that's saying something. Evans made a small fortune while selling women's apparel, but his good looks inadvertently lead him to acting. But there was one problem: Evans wasn't very good.

After his brief stint in front of the camera, Evans used his money to break into producing. He soon caught the attention of Charles Bluhdorn, who was head of Paramount owner Gulf+Western. Bluhdorn installed Evans at Paramount and by 1967, Evans was running the studio. At the time of Evans' arrival, Paramount was in trouble. Despite having virtually no experience running a studio, Evans was able to turn Paramount into the most successful studio in Hollywood, ushering in films like Rosemary's BabyThe GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIThe Conversation, Chinatown, and many more.

Evans would later step down as production head at Paramount to focus on producing movies himself. Between 1976 and 1980, he thrived as a producer behind hits like Marathon Man and Urban Cowboy (and the very weird Robert Altman-directed Popeye). By the '80s, though, Evans' output decreased. He had hoped to transition into directing with The Cotton Club, but the film proved to be a hassle from start to finish. Evans eventually handed directorial duties over to Francis Ford Coppola, but the film went over budget and took five years to make. When released, it flopped, taking in $26 million on a $58 million budget. The film – and Evans' life with it – was overshadowed by the murder of Roy Radin, a producer who was trying to break into Hollywood. Evans and Radin planned to form a new production company for the film, but Radin was murdered while financing was still being hashed out. While there was no evidence that Evans had any foreknowledge of the murder, two witnesses indicated Evans' involvement. At a preliminary hearing for the murder trial, Evans invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself and refused to testify.

Evans continued to produce up through the early 2000s, but his work came nowhere close to his glory days. Some of his later films include SliverJadeThe Phantom, and The Saint. The final film to feature an Evans producing credit was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Married seven times and convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1980, Evans' personal life was rocky, and became the stuff of Hollywood urban legend. Evans was introduced to a whole new generation in the acclaimed documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, adapted from his own memoir, which Evans narrated himself. This inexplicably lead to a short-lived Comedy Central animated series, Kid Notorious, in which Evans voiced a fictionalized version of himself.