Richard Sarafian, who directed the classic 1971 car chase pic “The Vanishing Point” and numerous TV shows and features, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., of complications from pneumonia. He was 83.
Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to the influential film in the “Vanishing Point car” sequence in his film “Death Proof.” Sarafian told TCM.com that his goal with “Vanishing Point” was to physicalize speed. “I had no linear concepts for this one. I made the car… the star of the film. I loved the ambiguity of it all, and fact that it makes people think and apply their own value system into it. My only disappointment was that Gene Hackman wanted to play the part of Kowalski, but the studio wouldn’t let me cast him, so I got saddled with Barry Newman instead,” Sarafian said.
Sarafian also helmed features including “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing,” with Burt Reynolds; “Sunburn,” with Farrah Fawcett; and “Eye of the Tiger,” with Gary Busey. He was also an actor — Warren Beatty cast him in “Bulworth” and “Bugsy,” while he appeared in “Don Juan DeMarco” with Marlon Brando. On TV, Sarafian was a series regular on Diane English’s brief 1985-86 series “Foley Square.”
Sarafian served in the Korean War and then attended NYU. While working as a reporter in Kansas City, he met fledgling director Robert Altman, who brought Sarafian to Hollywood to work as his assistant.
He later married Altman’s sister, Joan, with whom he had four sons — Deran, a TV director; Damon, an f/x technician; Tedi, a writer; and Richard Jr., an actor — and a daughter, Catherine.