Entertainment industry legend Jerry Weintraub died Monday morning in Santa Barbara, California due to cardiac arrest, his reps have confirmed to EW. He was 77 years old.
Born Sept. 26, 1937 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Weintraub first broke big in music, managing singer-songwriter John Denver to stardom in the 1970s. He also worked with other mega acts such as Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Frank Sinatra, and The Beach Boys.
His first film production project was a classic: 1975’s Nashville. Weintraub admitted he never quite got Nashville‘s script, even though he threw some of his savings into it. “I understood [director] Robert Altman,” Weintraub told EW in 2010, ”and that’s what mattered.”
Diner (1982) was a smaller project, but it was one of director Barry Levinson’s earliest works, one that featured a young cast of future stars: Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Steve Guttenberg, and Tim Daly.
Two years later, Weintraub produced the beginning of a giant franchise, The Karate Kid, which spawned three sequels and a 2011 reboot with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.
Weintraub’s next franchise-launching movie was the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven with an all-star cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and more. The producer had a brief cameo in all three films of the series.
His last major contribution was executive producing the 2013 Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, helmed by Ocean’s director Steven Soderbergh. He produced a new Tarzan film that is due in theaters in 2016.
Clooney shared his thoughts about Weintraub in the wake of his death, via The Hollywood Reporter: “In the coming days there will be tributes, about our friend Jerry Weintraub. We’ll laugh at his great stories, and applaud his accomplishments. And in the years to come the stories and accomplishments will get better with age, just as Jerry would have wanted it. But not today. Today our friend died. To his family and friends, Amal and I send our love. And to those who didn’t know him we send our deepest sympathy. You would have loved him.”
Former President George H. W. Bush also released a statement about his friend. “Barbara and I mourn the passing of our close and wonderfully impressionable friend, Jerry Weintraub. Jerry was an American original, who earned his success by the sheer force of his instinct, drive, and larger-than-life personality. He had a passion for life, and throughout the ups and downs of his prolific career it was clear just how much he loved show business. I used to tease him about a being ‘black belt name-dropper,’ but he really did seem to know everyone in showbiz — and we join his many friends in remembering and celebrating his singular life.”
Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio tweeted an ode to Weintraub.
Weintraub is survived by his wife, Jane Morgan Weintraub, and his longtime companion, Susan Ekins. He has four children — Michael, Julie, Jamie, and Jody — and five grandchildren.
Read EW‘s full 2010 profile with Weintraub here, including a crazy story of him, Clooney, and Pitt out on the town.