Filmmaker and lawyer Stuart Kleinman passed away this Monday at the age of 57 of a heart attack in his New York home. After going to law school in the wake of a brief career in graphic design, Kleinman became Vice President of ICM and President of Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures, where his love of film led to him fostering the early careers of filmmakers such as Mathieu Kassovitz and Shunji Iwai and producing such films as “Waking the Dead” and “Home for the Holidays.” In 2004, five years after becoming a Partner at New York’s Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz, Kleinman returned to the writing and producing, spending much of his time focussing on political topics over a broad range of issues, and continued to work on such discussions in recent years
Randy Ostrow met Stuart when they both attended Scarsdale Junior High in the late ’60s, quickly becoming friends over shared interests in film, among many other things. While they didn’t plan on it, the two attended NYU’s graduate film program together for one year before quitting the program, leaving Ostrow to start working on small films as an assistant director, production and location manager, and set decorator, while Stuart went to work as a graphic artist before ultimately deciding to attend law school. Ostrow was hired by Bing in 1997 to start the production unit at October Films after Universal’s purchasing of the company, before leaving the company after Scott Greenstein’s takeover of the company and its transition into USA Films and eventual transformation into Focus Features. Ostrow continued to work as a producer for a couple of years, before leaving the industry. Below is Ostrow’s obituary for his friend and colleague.
My dear friend, filmmaker, entertainment lawyer, former ICM Vice President and Egg Pictures Head Of Production Stuart Kleinman died on Monday at his home in New York City. He was 57 years old.
The news was confirmed by his brother, Dr. Andrew Kleinman, who said the cause of death was a heart attack.
In junior high and high school, ours was a circle of film enthusiasts, and Stuart was an early fan (among our American Film-loving crowd) of the French New Wave. He loved the music of Georges Delerue and Nino Rota. After a high-school career composed largely of drama club, laughter, movie-going, Super-8mm movie- making, and concerts at the Fillmore East, The Academy Of Music and The Capitol Theatre, Stuart attended Hobart College. We both landed in the same class at NYU’s Graduate Institute of Film and Television in 1977, where folks like Jim Jarmusch, Barry Sonnenfeld and Spike Lee honed their talents while Stuart and I tried in vain to obtain some professional training in what was then a world-famous but organizationally inept institution. After a disappointing year, Stuart took off for Los Angeles, where he spent the early ‘80’s at Andresen Typographics, working with John Kosh (designer of the Abbey Road album cover), on album covers for The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and others. In his spare time, he created scores of witty, humorous graphic designs and posters that reflected the events and trends of the era.
I was puzzled when he announced that he had decided to become a lawyer, but he went on to graduate with honors from Yale Law School. He became a protégé of Arthur Klein, the late beloved partner at Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein & Selz, and became involved in innovative deal-making among the heavy hitters (Al Pacino) and talented newcomers (Todd Solondz) of the movie business in the late 1980’s. (It was during this time that he off-handedly gave me the idea for my second film as a producer, “State of Grace.”)
In 1990 he went to work for Jeff Berg as a Vice President at ICM, and in 1992 he became President of Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures, where he was credited as Producer of “Waking the Dead” and Executive Producer of “Home for the Holidays,” a film of which he was particularly proud.
In 1999 he returned to New York as a Partner at Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz. In 2004 he turned his attention to writing and producing, and spent an increasing amount of time exploring and analyzing intellectual and political topics of the day, engaging writers and reporters in detailed discussions of books and articles across a broad range of issues.
His many friends will remember his incredible sense of humor, his boundless creativity, his enthusiasm for (and generous help offered to) talented up-coming filmmakers (like Mathieu Kassovitz – at Egg, Stuart was instrumental in securing distribution for “La Haine” – and Shunji Iwai); his love of the films of Francois Truffaut, the music of the Kinks, Carl Oglesby, Jacques Brel, alternative music of a dizzying variety, off-broadway theater, the National Lampoon; his devotion to his niece and nephew, and his unerring sense of justice and fair play.
He will be badly missed.