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‘Easy Rider’ Producer Dies; Resume Included Everything From Winning an Oscar for the Vietnam Documentary ‘Hearts and Minds’ to Winning an Emmy for ‘The Monkees’ — Changing Hollywood in the Process

Dec 14, 2011  •  Post A Comment

An Oscar- and Emmy-winning producer whose career highlights included “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Last Picture Show” has died, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Bert Schneider, who also won an Emmy as a producer on the TV show “The Monkees,” was 78. He died Monday after being in failing health for some time, the story reports.

Schneider produced 11 movies between 1968 and 1981, including the 1974 Vietnam War film “Hearts and Minds,” which won the Academy Award for best feature documentary.

With his father, Abraham Schneider, running Columbia Pictures during the late 1960s, Bert Schneider emerged as part of the New Hollywood movement that saw directors wrest creative control over their movies from the studios. He became a co-creator of the made-for-TV pop group the Monkees, and parlayed their huge success into financing for the landmark 1969 film “Easy Rider.”

“Easy Rider” turned out to be a game changer for Hollywood. Made for less than $300,000, the movie became a hit, grossing $20 million — a lot of money in 1969. Its success opened the door for a new wave of directors, including George Lucas, Bob Rafelson and Sydney Pollack, who followed its formula to tell offbeat stories on modest budgets.

Over the objections of “Easy Rider” star and director Dennis Hopper, Schneider insisted on casting still relatively unknown Jack Nicholson as an alcoholic attorney in the film, the story notes. Hopper said in a 1999 interview with the paper: "Bert insisted that I use him and finally I said, ‘Bert, I’ll do it for you, but he’s gonna ruin my movie.’ Bert wanted Jack because he needed a watchdog to make sure we weren’t pissing away all his money."

On the colorful history of “Easy Rider,” the Times piece adds: “At the screening for 50 Columbia executives, all but one were repulsed by the film’s anti-establishment tone and walked out. One of the executives was Schneider’s father, who was then chairman of Columbia.”

Schneider said in 1999: "My father hated the movie so much he forbid my mother from seeing it."

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Bert Schneider

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