David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

Variety | 4/21/2019 | Pat Saperstein
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David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer.

MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed away. David Picker was a true visionary who brought iconic films to theaters such as the James Bond franchise.”

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Picker brought the James Bond novels and the Beatles to United Artists; helped launch Steve Martin’s movie career and oversaw boundary-pushing movies like “Last Tango in Paris” and “Midnight Cowboy.”

Among the Hollywood figures who started out working for Picker as an assistant were Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bonnie Arnold, Tom Rothman and Jonathan Demme. His 2013, “Musts, Maybes and Nevers,” was a candid look at both his hits and flops, and he was honored with the PGA’s Charles Fitzsimmons Award in 2008.

James - Bond - Next

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He grew up in the movie business with a father who booked theaters for Loews after his grandfather sold a small chain he owned to the company. After graduating Dartmouth and serving in the U.S. Army, Picker started working at United Artists, where his uncle Arnold Picker was a partner.

Picker - Head - Production - Deal - Company

Picker was quickly promoted to head of production, where he made a crucial deal that continues to pay off for the company: he acquired the rights to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, though he initially told the James Bond producers to “keep trying” when they sent over Sean Connery’s screentest for “Dr. No.”

When he tried to persuade super-agent Lew Wasserman to sell him the rights to Ian Fleming’s novels for Alfred Hitchcock to direct, Picker said Wasserman’s reply was “It’s a great idea, kid, but Fleming just won’t sell.” But a few months later, as...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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