Fred Roos, ‘Godfather Part II’ producer and longtime Coppola collaborator, dies at 89

Fred Roos, the Oscar-winning producer of “The Godfather Part II” who helped launch the careers of numerous superstars from Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise, has died

Lindsey Bahr
Tuesday 21 May 2024 18:48

Fred Roos, the Oscar-winning producer of “The Godfather Part II” who helped launch the careers of numerous superstars from Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise, has died. He was 89.

He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on Saturday, a representative said Tuesday, just days after his and Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film “ Megalopolis ” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

“(He) was determined to never retire from the film business and to go with his boots on,” his son Alexander “Sandy” Roos said in a statement. “He got his wish.”

Roos and Coppola worked together for over 50 years, starting with “The Godfather,” where he advised on the casting of Al Pacino and James Caan against the wishes of the studio, and introduced Coppola to John Cazale. He produced Coppola's best picture nominees “The Conversation," “Apocalypse Now” and Parts II and III of “The Godfather.”

In a 2004 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Coppola called him “one of the great casting talents.”

The stories about his impact on some of the biggest films of all time, from the Godfather trilogy to “Star Wars,” are the stuff of Hollywood legend. While developing “Star Wars,” George Lucas asked Roos for his thoughts. He got the screenplay back with several names scribbled on it: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones. Roos helped assemble the young casts for “American Graffiti” and “The Outsiders,” introducing wide audiences to the likes of Cruise, Ford, Diane Lane, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon and Patrick Swayze.

Sometimes it took some convincing, like getting Ford in as Han Solo. In 2004, Ford said, “Once he believes in you, he is unrelenting. He kept putting me up for parts and I kept getting rejected. Finally things worked out.”

Other Roos discoveries include Diane Keaton, Laurence Fishburne, Emilio Estevez, Jennifer Connelly and Alden Ehrenreich.

“It’s always kind of intangible. Just a feeling I have about somebody,” Roos said of his ability to spot talent in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “A lot of people that I’ve been associated with are like that. Jack Nicholson. Harrison. They don’t quite fit any mold."

Roos was born in Santa Monica, California on May 22, 1934, and raised in Riverside and Los Angeles, where he attended high school at the famous Hollywood High. After graduating from UCLA in 1956, he was drafted and served two tours in Korea with the Army, one alongside Garry Marshall.

He long had a fascination with film, and started in the mailroom at a talent agency, MCA, Inc, where one of his odd jobs was driving Marilyn Monroe around. Soon he was casting for television shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “That Girl,” but would eventually find his way to film, working with the likes of John Huston (“Fat City”), Michelangelo Antonioni (“Zabriskie Point”), Monte Hellman (“Two-Lane Blacktop”) and Bob Rafelson (“Five Easy Pieces”).

Roos and Coppola would get two best picture nominations in the same year for “The Godfather Part II” and “The Conversation," winning for the former.

The Coppola collaboration also extended to the family. Roos produced Eleanor Coppola’s Emmy-winning documentary “Hearts of Darkness” about the making of “Apocalypse Now,” and had a hand in all of Sofia Coppola’s films, as well introducing her to Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Elle Fanning and Cailee Spaeny, who starred in her latest “Priscilla.” Sometimes he'd suggest well-known people for roles too, as with Colin Farrell in “The Beguiled.”

Roos is survived by his son, who was also his producing partner, and his wife, Nancy Drew.

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