Fred Roos, Oscar-Winning Producer, Dies at 89

Fred Roos, Oscar-Winning Producer, Dies at 89

©Courtesy of Fred Roos Family

Fred Roos, the Oscar-winning producer and casting director who had close relationships with the Coppola family, has died, Variety is reporting. The filmmaker, who’s remembered for casting and producing The Godfather series, American Graffiti and Megalopolis, was 89. He died on Saturday in Beverly Hills, four days before what would have been his 90th birthday.

The producer had close working relationships with Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter, Sofia Coppola. Besides The Godfather series and Megalopolis, Roos collaborated with Francis when he directed such movies as Apocalypse, One from the Heart, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders and The Cotton Club. The producer also worked on several of Sofia’s helming efforts, including The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette and her latest, last year’s Priscilla.

Roos served as the casting director and executive producer on Francis’ most recent feature, Megalopolis, an epic sci-fi drama which had its world premiere last week at the Cannes Film Festival. The $120 million passion project serves as the filmmaker’s last movie. Francis is attending the festival 45 years after he won the Palme d’Or for Apocalypse Now.

Francis paid tribute to Roos in a social media post on Instagram last year. The helmer called the casting director and executive producer one of the “incredible members” of the Megalopolis production.

In addition to working on the Coppolas’ movies, Roos was also known for being instrumental in helping such actors as Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Carrie Fisher and Richard Dreyfuss land their early notable roles. The filmmaker also cast Diane Keaton, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Jennifer Connelly and Billy Bob Thornton in important parts. The producer was also instrumental in casting Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Cailee Spaeny in their first important leading roles.

Roos was also helpful in getting Harrison Ford cast in the first Star Wars; the filmmaker served as an uncredited casting consultant on the epic space opera movie, during which he convinced George Lucas to consider casting Ford as Han Solo.

“I had already brought him to George’s attention in American Graffiti'” Roos told Entertainment Weekly about Ford. “Even though he was terrific, it was all night shooting and he’d only worked maybe 10 days on the whole movie. George hadn’t really gotten to know him.”

Born in Santa Monica, Roos became friends with Garry Marshall while serving in the Army in Korea. He also attended UCLA Film School before being hired as an agent at MCA.

The filmmaker started out casting for television series. He then pivoted to serving as the casting director on such notable movies as Zabriskie Point, Fat City, Petulia and Five Easy Pieces. He then went on to work with Francis for the first time, as casting director of The Godfather.

In 1988, Roos won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Casting Society of America. He was also honored by the Telluride Film Festival in 2004. When he received the Telluride honor, he spoke to the Boston Globe about casting Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

Roos said he and Francis had gone to London to tape the Academy Award-winning actor in character. The tape helped convince Paramount executives he would be right fit to play Don Corleone.

“Francis brought along a video cameraman without telling Marlon, and some Italian cigars and sausages, and Marlon started playing around and he just became the character,” Roos shared. “When Francis showed the tape to [Gulf & Western chief] Charles Bluhdorn, it won the day.”

Among Roos’ other producing credits were Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness and Paris Can Wait. He also produced the Warren Beatty starring romantic comedy, Town and Country, as well as Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly, The Black Stallion and last year’s Wonderwell.

The filmmaker won his Best Picture Oscar for The Godfather Part II in 1974. That year, he and Francis held the rare distinction of earning two Academy Award nominations in the category, for the epic crime sequel and The Conversation. They were later was nominated again in the same category for Apocalypse Now in 1980.

“Fred is a very loyal man,” Ford once told Bart. “Once he believes in you, he is unrelenting. He kept putting me up for parts, and I kept getting rejected. Finally things worked out.”

Roos is survived by his wife, Nancy Drew, and son and producing partner, Alexander “Sandy” Roos. Alexander will continue to produce, as he has several projects in various stages of development and production under their banner, FR Productions.

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