Jake Eberts, who started as a film financer and gained a reputation for shepherding Oscar-winning British and American films, died Thursday in Montreal of complications from a rare cancer of eye that had recently spread to his liver. He was 71.
Eberts founded Goldcrest Films in the late 1970s, working with talent including David Puttnam, Richard Attenborough, Jean-Jacques Annaud and John Boorman. The company helped to revive the British film industry with quality productions that racked up Oscars, including “The Killing Fields” and best picture winners “Chariots of Fire” in 1981 and “Gandhi” in 1982.
“He took filmmaking seriously. He felt cinema should be used to better mankind,” his friend, helmer Denys Arcand, told the Montreal Gazette.
Most recently Eberts had partnered with Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios to form Allied Prods. East, with plans to produce the film “Mission Boys.” He had recently produced the Imax 3D docu “Jerusalem,” slated for 2013 release, and worked on National Geographic’s upcoming theatrical release “Mysteries of the Unseen World.”
Born in Montreal, Eberts graduated from Harvard Business School and then became an investment banker. He became interested in the film business, launching Goldcrest when he helped raise money for the animated feature “Watership Down.”
After resigning from Goldcrest in 1984 to work for Embassy, he returned to try to revive the company in 1985, then resigned again in 1987.
Since then Eberts headed Pathe-affiliated Allied Filmmakers, starting with exec producing Annaud’s “The Name of the Rose.” Among Allied’s films were Boorman’s “Hope and Glory” and a second pair of Oscar winners, “Dances With Wolves” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”
While expensive disappointments such as “Absolute Beginners” helped drive Goldcrest out of business, Eberts also took a financial tumble with Terry Gilliam’s pricey “The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen” in 1988.
Through the 1990s Eberts served as producer or exec producer on films including “A River Runs Through It” and “James and the Giant Peach” and in 2000 co-exec produced “Chicken Run” with Jeffrey Katzenberg.
In 2002, Eberts became chairman of National Geographic Feature Films, forging a new path in documentaries and nature fare, including distribbing “March of the Penguins.” In 1990 he co-authored a memoir titled “My Indecision Is Final,” about his years at Goldcrest Films.
Eberts is survived by his wife, Fiona; two sons; and a daughter.