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Michael Stevens, Emmy-Winning ‘Kennedy Center Honors’ Producer, Dies at 48

Michael Stevens, the longtime writer-producer of the annual Kennedy Center Honors, died Oct. 15 from  complications during treatment for cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 48.

The Directors Guild of America announced Stevens’ death on its website Tuesday. Stevens was the grandson of three-term DGA president George Stevens and son of George Stevens, Jr., who founded the American Film Institute.

Stevens spent 25 years in the entertainment industry and was the recipient of seven Emmy Awards, two Writers Guild nominations, one Directors Guild nomination and an NAACP Award for Directing.

Stevens received Emmy Award nominations for the Kennedy Center Honors broadcast in the variety, music or comedy special category for five consecutive years between 2007 and 2011, winning the award in the latter three years. He also produced  “Christmas in Washington” TV specials for over 20 years and directed it for the last 10 years.

Stevens also produced presentations of the AFI’s “The American Film Institute Salutes” honoring Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese.

Stevens produced HBO’s inaugural celebration in 2009 for President Barack Obama, “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration.”

He also was an associate producer on “The Thin Red Line,” director/producer of the TV movie “Thurgood,” for which he won an NAACP award. He was director/producer/writer on the documentary “Herblock: The Black & the White.”

His producing credits included “Bad City Blues,” starring Dennis Hopper and “Sin,” starring Garry Oldman, Ving Rhames and Kerry Washington.

DGA President Paris Barclay issued the following statement:

“The Guild mourns the loss of award-winning director, producer, writer, member and friend Michael Stevens. Chairman of the 65th and 66th Annual DGA Awards and creator of the Guild’s powerful Emmy Award-winning series of 75th Anniversary films ‘DGA Moments in Time,’ Michael brought Guild history to life to share with our members and the world. Michael wrote, produced and directed more than 30 primetime event and concert specials, including ‘Kennedy Center Honors’ for which he earned a string of Emmy nominations and wins. In addition to his work on live events, concerts and awards shows, Stevens also produced and directed several critically acclaimed films, a Grammy-nominated album and political documentaries.”

“For more than seven decades, the DGA has been a part of the Stevens family. The grandson of three-term Guild president George Stevens and son of director member George Stevens, Jr., Michael’s family connection to the DGA began when his grandfather was one of the first Guild Service Award recipients at the inaugural DGA Awards in 1948. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Stevens was a native of Washington D.C. He attended Duke University and after working at the International Herald Tribune moved to Hollywood.

In 2003, Stevens married Alexandra Gifford, a former talent executive who ultimately served as a co-producer on many of Stevens’ projects.

Stevens was asked by Obama to produce the inagural celebration broadcast because he had the distinction of having been part of a show business family that dated back to the 19th Century. His paternal great grandmother Georgia Woodthorpe was a theater star in San Francisco in the late 19th Century; his great grandparents Landers Stevens and Georgie Cooper starred in San Francisco theater; Alice Howell, his maternal great grandmother, was a star comedienne who made over a hundred silent films.

His maternal grandfather Raymond Guest served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland and was active in the Virginia Legislature. His grandmother Lily Polk Guest was the founder of The Friends of The Kennedy Center organization.

Stevens is survived by his wife Alexandra and their children, John and Lily; his parents George and Elizabeth, his brother David and his sister Caroline Stevens Koka. Funeral and memorial services will be private.
 

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