photo by jon nicholson

feature story - Remembering a Not On Our Watch founder, Jerry Weintraub

february 20th, 2018

Jerome Charles "Jerry" Weintraub (September 26, 1937 – July 6, 2015) was an American film producer, talent agent, personal manager and actor who won three Emmys.

He began doing charitable work to help stop the ongoing genocide taking place in Darfur in 2007. Weintraub, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and David Pressman co-founded the nonprofit organization, Not On Our Watch, dedicated to preventing mass killings in Darfur and other areas of the world. With Jerry’s leadership in the early years, the organization raised millions of dollars that was channeled directly into humanitarian efforts in Darfur and other impacted locations.

Jerry began his career as a talent agent and then personal manager, having managed The Four Seasons early in their career and then discovering relatively unknown singer John Denver and developing Denver's success through concerts, television specials and film roles, including Oh, God! (1977). Weintraub has been credited with making "show business history" by being the first to organize and manage large arena concert tours for singers. In addition to Denver, among the other performers whose tours he managed were Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Four Seasons, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and The Carpenters.

Following his years as a concert promoter, he began producing films. Among them were director Robert Altman's Nashville (1975), Barry Levinson's Diner (1982), the original version of The Karate Kid (1984) and all subsequent sequels, including its 2010 remake as well as the remake of Ocean's Eleven (2001), and its two sequels. Later, Weintraub was executive producer of HBO's series The Brink and HBO's Behind the Candelabra in 2013, which won an Emmy. In 2014, he won another Emmy as co-producer of Years of Living Dangerously, a television documentary about global warming. In 2010, Weintraub was the author of the New York Times best-seller When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man. In 2011, HBO broadcast a television documentary about Weintraub's life, called His Way.

In 1986, the National Association of Theater Owners named Weintraub the Producer of the Year. In 1991, he was named to the board of the Kennedy Center. Weintraub was one of the first independent film producers to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2007, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. In addition, in 2007 Weintraub joined his fellow Not on Our Watch founders, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in immortalizing his hand and footprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, becoming the first Producer to ever be so honored.

Along with Not On Our Watch, Weintraub was a major contributor to many other charities, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Music Center, The Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry and the Children's Museum of Los Angeles. In 1988, the American Friends of the Hebrew University gave Weintraub and his wife, Jane, the Scopus Award in gratitude for their support. He was also a major supporter of Chabad and was close with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Upon Jerry's death, George and Amal Clooney expressed the sentiment of many in their statement: "In the coming days there will be tributes about our friend Jerry Weintraub...And in the years to come the stories and accomplishments will get better with age, just as Jerry would have wanted it. 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."


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