Saul Zaentz, the Academy Award-winning American film producer behind the likes of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient, has passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s, aged 92. Born in Passaic, New Jersey in 1921, Zaentz began his career in the music industry after serving in World War II, eventually rising to become co-owner of Fantasy Records, who enjoyed huge success with Creedence Clearwater Revival. By the late 60s, Zaentz was turning his eye towards Hollywood, releasing his first film Payday in 1973 before producing Milos Forman’s acclaimed 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, leading to his first Best Picture Oscar win.
Zaentz would receive two further Best Picture awards for Amadeus in 1985 and The English Patient in 1997; in 1997, he was also presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Award, making him the first producer since Cecil B. DeMille in 1952 to be presented with the Thalberg Award and win an Oscar at the same ceremony. Meanwhile, his other movie credits included The Mosquito Coast, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Goya’s Ghosts, as well as Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, with Zaentz having secured the movie rights to Tolkien’s epic fantasy in 1976.