Famed Hollywood producer James Brubaker dead at 85

 January 5, 2023

Famed Hollywood producer James D. Brubaker, perhaps best known for his work on the "Rocky" film franchise, passed away on Tuesday, according to Variety.

Brubaker was 85 years old when he died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, due to complications from a series of strokes.

From union driver to top studio executive

James Brubaker was born in 1937 in Hollywood, California, went to school at Cal State University in Los Angeles, and served in the U.S. Army before launching his career in entertainment.

His start in the film industry actually came in the 1970s as a member of the Teamsters union who worked as a driver for a studio and transported horses to set locations for Westerns, including films starring John Wayne.

Brubaker worked his way up the film production chain over time, winning various awards and honors along the way, to eventually become a top executive at Universal Pictures placed in charge of supervising all studio productions in the 2000s.

Impressive roster of film productions

According to Deadline, Brubaker's participation in the "Rocky" film franchise began as a driver for the first movie in 1976. He then served as production manager for 1979's "Rocky II," was an associate producer for the third film in the series in 1982, and was the executive producer of "Rocky IV" in 1985.

The producer worked with "Rocky" star Sylvester Stallone on a few other movies as well, including "Rhinestone" in 1984, "Cobra" in 1986, and "Over the Top" in 1987.

Brubaker also worked with a few famous comedic actors, too, including Jim Carrey in 1997's "Liar, Liar," and 2003's "Bruce Almighty," as well as Eddie Murphy in 1996's "The Nutty Professor," 1999's "Life," and 2000's "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps."

Another of the big hit films that Brubaker executive produced was 1983's "The Right Stuff" about the U.S. space program in its early years.

Other major productions he was involved in over the years, per his IMDb page, include "Diamonds are Forever" and "Harold and Maude" in 1971, "The Godfather Part II" in 1974, "Raging Bull" in 1980, "True Confessions" in 1981, "K-9" in 1989, "Above the Rim" in 1994, "D2: The Mighty Ducks" in 1994, "A Walk in the Clouds" in 1995, "Gia" in 1998, "Dragonfly" in 2002, with his final production being "Chef" in 2014.

Serving the arts and the community

Variety noted that Brubaker, as a top Hollywood producer, was a proud member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Directors Guild of America, and The Producers Guild of America. He also served on the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission in his hometown.

When Brubaker wasn't on the set of a production, where he was known to provide otherwise hard-to-obtain training opportunities for "disadvantaged youth" from L.A., he could sometimes be found giving informative lectures to film school students at UCLA and USC.

Variety further noted that Brubaker, while serving as Universal Studio's president of physical production from 2003 through 2008, supervised the production of more than 50 different films shot in 14 different countries around the globe.

Brubaker is survived by Marcy Kelly, his wife of 30 years, and their three children -- Marcei, Susan, and John -- plus five grandchildren, and was preceded in death by his stepson Michael.

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