“What you have been given is yours to understand, but the rest belongs to me.”
Here is the story of Jerry Weintraub: the self-made, Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised impresario, Hollywood producer, legendary deal maker, and friend of politicians and stars. No matter where nature has placed him–the club rooms of Brooklyn, the Mafia dives of New York’s Lower East Side, the wilds of Alaska, or the hills of Hollywood–he has found a way to put on a show and sell tickets at the door. “All life was a theater and I wanted to put it up on a stage,” he writes. “I wanted to set the world under a marquee that read: ‘Jerry Weintraub Presents.'”
In WHEN I STOP TALKING, YOU’LL KNOW I’M DEAD, we follow Weintraub from his first great success at age twenty-six with Elvis Presley, whom he took on the road; to the immortal days with Sinatra and Rat Pack glory; to his crowning hits as a movie producer, starting with Robert Altman and Nashville, continuing with Oh, God!, The Karate Kid movies, and Diner, among others, and summiting with Steven Soderbergh and Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.
It all started when he was a little boy and he found out he can make money in Brooklyn. He co-opted his little brother and they went on from laundry delivery to selling fruits.
Over time, the neighborhood took on a different aspect for me. I saw it with new eyes. It was no longer just streets and stores: It was needs and opportunities, money to be like recognizing the pattern in the carpet. You cannot unrecognize it. The grocery, the fruit stand, the newspaper seller–I was making deliveries for all of them. Very quickly, there was too much business to handle on my own.
He didn’t go to college but he knew how to make the money and with money comes the power! This story isn’t just for music or movie lovers, or entrepreneurs….it’s for everyone.
There was a way to do things, and a way to live. A man should, for example, build a business, which he can pass on to his sons. He should have a paycheck, a regular source of income, and, most important, he should have an inventory. Inventory–the word rang like a bell in our house. It was magic. A man should be able to go into his storeroom and count his stock.
About Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen
Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen, which together grossed over a billion dollars, have been a capstone on my career. I did not produce the 1960 original but was around when it was made and had long wanted to do a remake; it was the perfect vehicle for young Hollywood, a way to put a handful of actors in a frame built for the original Rat Pack–to show that, though times have changed, there are still those who can shed Sinatra-size wattage. Ocean’s Eleven screamed to be back on the marquee. In 1998, I sent the script to Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, who had a production deal with Warner’s. We met at the Smoke House restaurant for guys made the whole thing work. The feat of a project like this is casting, getting huge stars, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Elliott Gould, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle to appear and mesh on the same set. Soderbergh and Clooney had everything to do with pulling this off. They contacted the actors and explained the beauty of the project–this is as close as you can get to old Sinatra days. It was important that Clooney made the calls because he got people to take less money and less back end because it was an ensemble piece.
We had a great time making Ocean’s . For the actors, this joy was often expressed in pranks, most of them directed at me. There was the time that, on a long flight back from Europe, Brad and George, knowing that I am a big vodka drinker, challenged me to a contest. I said, “Look, you’re making a mistake. You’ll end up with your luggage under your seat.” They persisted, so we went shot for shot. I passed out after fifteen. The boys then took the opportunity to fill my clothes, pockets, socks, and shoes with found out later that, as I had been downing Stolichnaya, they had been drinking water. Nice friends. Then there was the time that George Clooney, after a late night, had a huge breakfast delivered to my room at 5:00 A.M. I got so angry, but the room-service operator kept insisting that I had placed the order myself. When I finally asked where the call had come from, she said, “Matt Damon’s room, but it was you calling, Mr. Weintraub.” George Clooney and all those guys can do spot-on Jerry Weintraub imitations. All that fun we had making Ocean’s is captured in the film. You can feel it.
The 77-year-old Hollywood movie producer Jerry Weintraub passed away in a hospital after suffering a bowel perforation that caused two heart attacks on July 6, 2015 (aged 77) .