Remembering Edward R. Pressman: Independent Producer of Malick, Ferrara, Harron, Stone, and Many More

Ed Pressman was cool. And he had taste. He didn’t care what other people thought of a given project. If he thought it was cool, that was enough. He kept his own counsel; he was quiet. But if he wanted something, he let you know. He was not one to take no for an answer.

This helps to explain how he came to produce some 80 films over the decades. And he had not slowed down in recent years. When Ed and his son Sam came to IndieWire’s Cannes party two years ago, Ed found a quiet corner and worked his phone. Pressman died January 17 of respiratory failure, at age 79.

Look at the friends who showed up to speak at his Memorial at the Paris Theatre in New York last Thursday: Mary Harron, David Byrne, and Eric Bogosian, among others, plus video tributes from David Hare, David Gordon Green, Bill Kramer, Ben Kingsley, Jason Blum, and more (see below).

“He was soft-spoken, thoughtful, unpretentious, and gentlemanly,” said ex-CAA chief Rick Nicita in his video tribute, who first met Pressman on Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” back in 1973. Pressman also backed then-unknown Brian DePalma’s early thriller “Sisters” (1972) , followed two years later by “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Pressman was expected to follow in the family business at Pressman Toy Corporation, but he took his own course instead, studying philosophy at Stanford.

“He loved a special sort of individual film,” said Irons, who won an Oscar for Barbet Schroeder’s critically hailed “Reversal of Fortune” (1990). “He was a man of honesty you could trust, a rare man in our industry.”

When Abel Ferrara was ready to back down and give up when “Bad Lieutenant” (1992) ran into rough waters, “Ed never backed down,” he said. Ferrara is writing a book that Pressman is definitely in, he added.

Who else but Pressman would put musician David Byrne at the helm of a movie, “True Stories” (1986), written by Stephen Tobolowsky and Beth Henley and set in a small Texas town, starring John Goodman?

Back in the 80s, Ed and his wife Annie would host gatherings at his house in the Hollywood Hills, which boasted a splendid view and incredible art on the walls. They later moved to New York. I mostly hung out with him at Cannes, where he hosted a lunch at the Eden Roc at the Hotel du Cap for the Taviani brothers (“The Night of the Shooting Stars”), threw a party at a chum’s ancient family villa, and turned up every year to either premiere a film (“Bad Lieutenant,” “The King,” “Thank You for Smoking,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”) or gather funding for countless others (“The Crow”).

Pressman and Oliver Stone partnered on a number of films including his second feature film “The Hand,” and “Wall Street,” which scored at the box office and won Michael Douglas the Oscar. Stone and Pressman produced Arnold Schwarzenegger action epic “Conan” and the much smaller, but prophetic “Talk Radio,” as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s third feature, “Blue Steel,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

Christian Bale worked with Pressman on Harron’s “American Psycho,” and stayed in touch with the producer over the years. “He was an original and sought out other originals,” he said. “He loved vouching for people who were untested. Thank you for the stories.”

In lieu of flowers the Pressman family welcomes donations to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, “in Memory of Edward R. Pressman,” here.

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