Guy McElwaine, long one of Hollywood’s top agents and studio execs, died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
McElwaine was a founding partner of International Creative Management and served as a VP of production at Warner Bros., president of Columbia Pictures and, most recently, as prexy of Morgan Creek Productions.
“He had a great eye for talent,” said ICM chairman Jeff Berg. “He was able to successfully traverse being an agent and being a studio executive. He was a wonderful colleague.”
McElwaine was an L.A. native who attended USC and played baseball professionally out of college. He began his showbiz career as a manager and publicist, working with clients such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Warren Beatty, The Righteous Brothers and The Mamas and the Papas.
After his stint in public relations, he joined CMA, forerunner to today’s ICM, in 1969, where he was the first agent to sign Steven Spielberg.
While at CMA, Warner Bros. recruited him as senior exec VP in charge of worldwide productions for Warner Brothers, where he supervised films including “All the President’s Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Oh God!” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon.”
When CMA became ICM, he rejoined the company as a founding partner. As an agent, he helped assemble talent packages for films including “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the “Alien” trilogy and “The Towering Inferno.”
He ran ICM’s Motion Picture activities until 1981, when he left to become president of Columbia Pictures, and soon after became chairman and chief executive officer. During his tenure at Columbia, McElwaine was involved in supervising production and distribution of more than 60 films including “Ghostbusters,” “The Karate Kid,” David Lean’s final film “A Passage to India” and the Oscar-winning “Ghandi.”
Other films made during his stint at Columbia included “Stand By Me,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Silverado,” “The Big Chill,” “Agnes of God,” “La Bamba” and “The Toy.”
“It was a more civilized time,” McElwaine told Variety‘s VLife magazine in 2003 about his time at Columbia. “Deals were easier. We had a philosophy of fairness. We never had the attitude, ‘Let’s screw this person to the wall.’ ”
He rejoined the agency business for the third time in 1988, resuming his position at ICM.
McElwaine moved back into production in 1998 as president and COO of Trilogy Entertainment, where he was partnered with Pen Densham, John Watson and Richard Lewis.
He joined Morgan Creek Productions in 2002, where he recently exec produced “Two for the Money,” “The Good Shepherd,” “Man of the Year” and “Sydney White.”
He was voted Motion Picture Executive of the Year by the Motion Picture Exhibitors in 1995, and honored with the Big Heart Award from Variety Clubs in 1986.
McElwaine is survived by children Dawn Taubin, a film marketing exec; Erin Ozar; Alexandra Grane; Daniel McElwaine and seven grandchildren. A daughter, Katharine, died last year.
Donations may be made to the William H. Isakoff, MD Research Foundation for Gastrointestinal Cancer, 100 UCLA Medical Plaza, Suite 345, Los Angeles, CA 90025.