Hollywood producer Irwin Winkler is far from the self-described “nice Jewish boy from Coney Island.” In a career that spans a half-century, Winkler has produced numerous storied films including Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, The Wolf of Wall Street, Creed and others. His films have garnered 12 Academy Awards and 52 Oscar nominations. He is the only producer honored with three films on the American Film Institute’s list of “Top 100 Films.”
Having fallen under the Silver Screen’s sway after seeing Gone With the Wind when he was around 10.
“In those days, there was no television or movies on television. It used to be re-released every five years and I couldn’t wait for the five years to pass, because there was no other way to see the movie. That was one of my great cinematic memories—seeing Gone With the Wind. It really made me love movies right there,” he said.
Winkler got his first break working in the mail room of the William Morris talent agency. That story and more are covered in his new memoir, A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood. He’ll be appearing as part of Long Island LitFest at Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre to discuss these stories and more on April 29, and he shared a handful of his favorite films.
“One of my favorites is one that I directed called De-Lovely, which is about Cole Porter, starring Kevin Kline. I love that music and the music from that period. As a director, I experimented with a lot of different things. It’s a very innovative film in terms of the technical aspects of it. I think it’s really, really special. The music is great, the dancing is great. We shot the whole movie, except for one sequence, in London. Everything we found in and around London. Even the Venice sequence, I shot in Luxembourg. [My wife] Margo and I loved living in London for that period. My son was one of the producers. He had two little grandchildren for us at the time and they were in London. My daughter-in-law was an actress in the film. So it was a great experience in every possible way. More than anything else, I loved the Cole Porter music. I was intrigued by one scene in particular, which I mention in my book as well. How these two people, he a gay man and she a woman who been sexually abused by her first husband—how they loved each other and how they made love once because he knew she wanted a child. I loved doing that and trying all that stuff. So that was a great experience.”
“I think Scorsese did an absolutely brilliant job in making a great, great gangster movie. I think it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. Marty is always fun to be with. He’s a joy. We now have done seven or eight movies together, sometimes [with him] as an actor and sometimes as a producer. He’s been great and that’s always a joy.”
The Irishman (2019)
“For me, it was the coming together of a group of guys that hung together over the last 40 or 50 years. That was a great deal of fun and a tough accomplishment.”
Irwin Winkler will be appearing on April 29 to discuss his book A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood as part of Long Island LitFest. The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. For more information, visit www.cinemaartscentre.org or call 631-423-7611.