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Irwin Winkler

Irwin Winkler

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: May 25, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: producer, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

At once genial and candid, producer-turned-director Irwin Winkler brought to the big screen some of the most iconic films - as well as a few duds - in the history of motion pictures. Though he had made films inside the Hollywood studio system, Winkler has been more than happy to express his disappointment with the ever-increasing corporatization of the business and the lack of creative risk-taking that was par for the course when he came of age in the late 1960s. Though turning to directing after decades of producing alleviated some of the frustration and allowed him to take creative control, Winkler still battled producers and studio executives in a business more concerned with quarterly results than artistic triumph. With producing credits that included "Rocky" (1976), "Raging Bull" (1980) and "Goodfellas" (1990), Winkler landed a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000, assuring his stature as one of the steadiest, though unsung, filmmakers in the late 20th century.Winkler was born on May 25, 1931 in Brooklyn, NY to a father in the wholesale silk business and a housewife mother. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in American literature from New York University in 1955, Winkler landed a...

At once genial and candid, producer-turned-director Irwin Winkler brought to the big screen some of the most iconic films - as well as a few duds - in the history of motion pictures. Though he had made films inside the Hollywood studio system, Winkler has been more than happy to express his disappointment with the ever-increasing corporatization of the business and the lack of creative risk-taking that was par for the course when he came of age in the late 1960s. Though turning to directing after decades of producing alleviated some of the frustration and allowed him to take creative control, Winkler still battled producers and studio executives in a business more concerned with quarterly results than artistic triumph. With producing credits that included "Rocky" (1976), "Raging Bull" (1980) and "Goodfellas" (1990), Winkler landed a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000, assuring his stature as one of the steadiest, though unsung, filmmakers in the late 20th century.

Winkler was born on May 25, 1931 in Brooklyn, NY to a father in the wholesale silk business and a housewife mother. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in American literature from New York University in 1955, Winkler landed a job at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, working alongside the likes of Jerry Weintraub and Bernie Brillstein in the mailroom. Not well suited for a major agency, Winkler left and formed his own talent agency with Robert Chartoff. A strange series of events involving another client led the two newly-minted managers to represent actress Julie Christie, arranging her screen test for "Doctor Zhivago" (1965). They also brokered a distribution deal for the low-budget British film, "Darling" (also 1965), that earned Christie the Academy Award for Best Actress. Winkler and his partner formed Chertoff-Winkler Productions after jumping at the chance to produce movies for MGM - their first being "Double Trouble" (1967), one of many Elvis Presley vehicles made during the 1960s.

They followed up that same year with "Point Blank," a John Boorman gangster flick starring Lee Marvin as a professional thief seeking revenge on his unfaithful wife (Sharon Acker) and double-crossing friend (John Vernon). Winkler had his first critical success with "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969), an emotionally-charged character study of several contestants (Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern, Gig Young) vying for a $1,500 prize in a Depression-era dance marathon. Directed by Sydney Pollack, "They Shoot Horses" earned seven Academy Award nominations and one win (Best Supporting Actor). With his clout growing, Winkler churned out movies with abandon - both schlock and hits - including the messy political drama "The Strawberry Statement" (1970), the goofy mafia comedy "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" (1971) and the hardnosed adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh's "The New Centurians" (1972), starring George C. Scott as a seasoned veteran on the verge of retirement who tries to show a rookie cop (Stacy Keach) the ropes.

After a couple best forgotten screwball comedies - "SPYS" (1974) and "Busting" (1974) - Winkler put his stamp on "The Gambler" (1974), a noir drama about a respected college professor (James Caan) in trouble with the mob over his insurmountable gambling debts. Though his career had been developing at a sure pace, Winkler's clout skyrocketed when he helped bring "Rocky" to the screen, turning then-unknown Sylvester Stallone into a star and earning the producer his first Academy Award. Both Winkler and Chartoff had thought highly of Stallone as an actor, but had nothing to cast him in. They read a script he wrote called "Paradise Alley," but felt it was not the right project for them at the time. Asked by the producers what else he wanted to do, he told them about his rags-to-riches tale of a struggling amateur boxer who gets the chance of a lifetime to fight the heavyweight champ. However, after promising Stallone he could star in the film, Winkler and Chartoff had a difficult task in selling the idea to United Artists. After some wrangling, the studio agreed to make the film, but didn't guarantee theatrical release. A strong showing in one theater in Los Angeles eventually led to a wider release that ultimately netted over $115 million at the box office, three Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, and an iconic movie hero that would transcend generations.

After the critical and box office disappointment "Nickelodeon" (1976), Peter Bogdanovich's failed ode to the silent film era, Winkler began a long and fruitful collaboration with Martin Scorsese, beginning with "New York, New York" (1977), a period drama about a jazz singer (Liza Minelli) and her saxophonist husband (Robert De Niro) as they become famous on stage, but struggle to maintain their marriage off stage. After going back to the well with "Rocky II" (1979), Winkler reunited with Scorsese and De Niro for "Raging Bull" (1980) - perhaps the producer's most acclaimed film on his resume. Though a box office dud, "Raging Bull" earned eight Academy Award nominations, winning two for Best Actor (De Niro) and Best editing, and became one of the most revered and talked-about films in cinema history. Try as he might, Winkler was never part of a film like "Raging Bull" again. He did help steer ship on the second - but not the last - sequel "Rocky III" (1982), "Author! Author" (1982) and "The Right Stuff" (1983) - the latter film earning him another Academy Award nomination for Best Picture - effectively ending his producing partnership with Chartoff.

Another sequel, "Rocky IV" (1985), was followed by the dismal "Revolution" (1985), a bloated Revolutionary War epic that failed miserably at the box office and financially ruined Goldcrest Films. Winkler helped release several other forgettable features, including the unavoidable, but unnecessary "Rocky V" (1990), before returning to form with another Scorsese-De Niro collaboration on the seminal gangster epic, "Goodfellas" (1990). In a surprising career switch, Winkler turned to directing features, starting with "Guilty by Suspicion" (1991), a period drama about a Hollywood director (De Niro) whose budding career was destroyed by the Hollywood Blacklist. Though not a groundbreaker in terms of box office take - it banked only $8 million - the film did earn a moderate splattering of critical praise. His next effort at the helm, "Night and the City" (1992), a remake of Jules Dassin's 1950 noir flick about a two-bit lawyer (again, De Niro) trying to make it as a boxing promoter, faired much the same as his first film - little box office and critical respect.

Winkler did better at the box office with his third feature as director, "The Net" (1995) - a conspiracy thriller that played upon the then-new fear of having one's identity stolen over the Internet - though the movie itself took a critical drubbing. A brief return to producing duties on "The Juror" (1996) was followed up with his fourth directing effort, "At First Sight" (1999), a romantic drama about a New York architect (Mira Sorvino) who falls in love with a blind man (Val Kilmer) and learns that vision is comprised of more than just sight. Winkler again dipped his toe back into the producing pool with "The Shipping News" (2001), a thin adaptation of a dense Annie Proulx novel about a man's (Kevin Spacey) journey of self-discovery upon returning to his ancestral home, followed by directing the unscrupulously uplifting "Life as a House" (2001), starring Kevin Kline as a dying man who sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream of building his family a house.

After producing the ridiculous revenge thriller "Enough" (2002), Winkler teamed up again with Kline on "De-Lovely" (2004), a biopic of the great jazz composer Cole Porter (Kline) with a focus on his closeted homosexuality and his complicated relationship with wife and muse Linda (Ashley Judd). In what was to be the last go-round, Winkler and old pal Sly Stallone dug up the corpse of the Italian Stallion for "Rocky Balboa" (2006), a rousing, if rather ordinary installment to the series, that depicted an aged ex-champ getting himself into a high-profile exhibition with the reigning champ (Antonio Tarver) after a cyber-fight between the two deemed Balboa the winner. Back in the director's chair, Winkler helmed "Home of the Brave" (2006), a well-intentioned, but ultimately flawed tale about a National Guard unit in Iraq sent on a final humanitarian mission before they're to be sent back home to Spokane, WA.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  De-Lovely (2004) Director
3.
  Life as a House (2001) Director
4.
  At First Sight (1999) Director
5.
  Net, The (1995) Director
6.
  Night And The City (1992) Director
7.
  Guilty By Suspicion (1991) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Jessica Lange: On Her Own Terms (2001) Interviewee
2.
 Sylvester Stallone (1997) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1951:
Served in US Army
:
Began career in mailroom of William Morris Agency
1962:
Formed theatrical talent agency with Robert Chartoff
1966:
Co-founded Chartoff-Winkler Productions
1967:
First Chartoff-Winkler production, "Point Blank"
1970:
"The Strawberry Statement" won the Jury Prize at Cannes
1976:
Produced "Rocky"; earned Best Picture Academy Award
1977:
First of three films with director Martin Scorsese, "New York, New York", starring Robert De Niro
1980:
Scorsese's "Raging Bull" nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture; won three Oscars including Best Actor for De Niro
1983:
"The Right Stuff" nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture; won four in techincal categories
:
Formed independent Winkler Films
1985:
First film produced without Chartoff, "Revolution", starring Al Pacino
1990:
"GoodFellas" nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture; Joe Pesci won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar; third film with Scorsese as director
1991:
Directorial and screenwriting debut, "Guilty By Suspicion", starring De Niro; Scorsese also acted in film
1991:
Directed remake of "Night and the City", teaming De Niro and Jessica Lange
1995:
Wrote and directed "The Net", starring Sandra Bullock
1998:
Served as executive producer of the USA Network series "The Net", based on the 1995 feature
1999:
Co-wrote and directed "Love at First Sight", teaming Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino
2000:
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (April 28)
2001:
Produced and directed "Life as a House," starring Kevin Kline as a man dying of cancer who tries to repair the relationship with his troubled son
2004:
Directed Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd in "De-lovely," a musical drama about legendary American composer Cole Porter; also produced
2006:
Wrote and directed "Home of the Brave," a drama following the lives of four American soldiers in Iraq and their return back to the US
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New York University: New York , New York - 1955

Notes

On film labeling: "So the point is, why put your work in the hands of somebody you don't even know? I believe that the director should get no less than the final cut of the film, both theatrical and television. It should not be compromised by a label.

"Now in the case of my film 'The Net', the system worked. The studio asked me to reshoot the ending, which we did. I looked at the new ending but thought the original was better. And the studio accepted my decision, even though they preferred the other one. Someone coming into Columbia 10 years from now shouldn't dig up the ending I shot and discarded, decide that it's better and use it. And then just label it. The credits say 'Directed by . . .' That means something." --Irwin Winkler in DGA Magazine, September-October 1996

According to The Hollywood Reporter (September 11, 2000): "Lakeshore Entertainment Corp. has filed suit against Irwin Winkler for fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices for allegedly reneging on an agreement to produce and direct for the company the feature film project 'Life as a House.'"

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Margo Winkler. Married c. 1959; parents were vaudevillians Charles and Irma Melson.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Sol Winkler.
mother:
Anna Winkler.
son:
Charles Winkler. Director. Married to actress Sandra Nelson; daughter Maya born on January 11. 2000.
son:
Adam Winkler. Attorney.
son:
David Winkler. Director.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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