Gerald Ayres film producer writer               

                            Gerald Ayres, film producer, writer


                            Born: San Diego, California

                       February 3, 1936









Gerald Ayres, film producer, writer


Born: San Diego, California

February 3, 1936




1957 – At Yale had plays produced both as under-

     graduate and in Yale Drama School.  Wrote for

     Yale Daily News and Yale Literary Magazine.



1959 – Started in films as Story Analyst for Columbia

     Pictures in New York.



1961 – Made East Coast Story Editor Columbia Pictures.



1964 – Sent to Columbia studios in Hollywood as Executive

      Assistant to Head of Production, Mike Frankovich,.



1970 – Made Vice President in charge of production of

     Columbia studios. 



1971 – CISCO PIKE – first produced film, starred Kris

     Kirstofferson, Gene Hackman and Warhol’s Viva. 



1974 – THE LAST DETAIL – second produced film taken to

     Canada to shoot because of refusal of cooperation

from Nixon administration.  Nominated for three Oscars, won best actor at Cannes for Jack Nicholson.  Won various critics’ awards in US, also BAFTRA awards plus Golden Globe nominations.  Directed by Hal Ashby, script by Robert Towne.



1980 – FOXES – wrote original script and co-produced

  with David Puttnam.  Starred Jodie Foster, Scott Baio

  and rock star Cherie Currie.  First directed film

  for Adrian Lyne.



1981 - RICH AND FAMOUS – script won WGA award for Best

Adapted Comedy of the Year.  Last film directed by George Cukor.  Starred Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen.



1982 – RUMPELSTILSKIN – wrote script for Shelley

  Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre.  Starred Duvall,

  Ned Beatty and Herve Villechaize.



1992 – CRAZY IN LOVE, script nominated for ACE award.

Starred Holly Hunter, Gena Rowlands, Frances McDormand.   Herta Ware won Ace for supporting



1992 – STORMY WEATHERS – script for ABC caper starring

     Cybil Shephard.



hour NBC miniseries.  Script was so changed in production that Ayres used a pseudonym even though given sole credit.



2000 – HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY – Ayres appears as himself in

     this Sundance Special Jury award winning documentary

by John Walter.  Subject was Ayres’s long-time friend, artist Ray Johnson.



2009 – THE BEACHES OF AGNES – Ayres appears as himself

     in a film of another old friend, Agnes Varda.  This

documentary memoir by the New Wave pioneer won awards

around the globe.







The son of a career officer, Gerry Ayres grew up on a number of Navy airbases, ending at his thirteenth school for senior year in Glendale, California.  From there he received the first of a lifetime of surprises: a scholarship to Yale University.


An English major, he pursued an interest in theatre and had plays produced by both the Yale Dramat and the graduate Drama School while he was still an undergraduate.  He wrote a column for the Yale Daily News and published poems and stories in the Yale Literary Magazine.


As his interest grew in writing plays, his interest in his classes lagged and he left Yale (by mutual consent) three months shy of graduation and went to New York to pursue a life in the theatre.


His first taste of New York was a zipper factory in the garment district, employment he returned to between jobs he landed as a play doctor.  One such play made it to rehearsals before closing, a distinction of sorts.  He formed a lifetime friendship with the audition pianist, Jay Thompson, who was soon to write ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. Years later, Ayres brought Thompson to Hollywood to write a screenplay for Dino, Desi and Billy, the briefly famous sons of legendary parents.


In 1957 he married his Smith College sweetheart, Anne Bartlett.  They had two children, Christopher and Elizabeth.  The marriage ended in 1971.


In 1959 he was hired as a freelance Story Analyst by Columbia Pictures, aided from inside the company by classmate Larry Kramer who soon went on to write the script for WOMEN IN LOVE and later the socially important play THE NORMAL HEART.


In 1960 Ayres was brought into the home office on Fifth Avenue as East Coast story editor.


In Greenwich Village in the late 50s he became acquainted with Andy Warhol and his factory folks, especially playwright Soren Agenoux and actors Ondine and Viva. 


He developed a jazz opera with Freddie Redd, the composer of the score for Judith Molina’s monumental THE CONNECTION.  He and Redd hoped to get the Living Theatre to produce the chamber piece but were thwrted when the IRS closed down the Living Theatre.  Molina and her husband Julian Beck took their company to Europe.


As surprising to Ayres as the scholarship to Yale was an offer in 1963 to go to Columbia’s Hollywood studio by Mike Frankovich who was then taking over as production chief.  Ayres had always intended to stick with the theatre.  Instead, he entered the Columbia Studio the day Frankovich did, January 2, 1964.


As the studio head’s executive assistant, he covered scripts for his boss, sat in on all production meetings, witnessing and contributing as Frankovich rolled out a remarkable array of films in the five years: SHIP OF FOOLS, THE COLLECTOR, FUNNY GIRL, CAT BALLOU, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, OLIVER, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, THE PROFESSIONALS, IN COLD BLOOD, TO SIR WITH LOVE, GEORGY GIRL, GETTING STRAIGHT and many others.


In 1970 Ayres was made VP in charge of studio production after Frankovich exited.


In 1971, Maya Angelou dedicated her book of poems JUST GIVE ME A COOL DRINK OF WATER ‘FORE I DIIIE to Ayres, employing a nickname, “Zorro Man.


During the brief time he stayed as studio head, Ayres was pleased to bring his old friend and French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Demy to the studio for his only US film, MODEL SHOP.  It starred Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimee.   


Humorous in retrospect but disappointing at the time, the studio refused to consider friend Harrison Ford for the lead.  Both Ayres and Demy felt Ford had a future.


Ayres did get financing for Demy’s wife, Agnes Varda, also famous as a New Wave filmmaker.  Titled PEACE AND LOVE, the film was a hard sale given its political theme.  In the end, Varda refused the financing when one of the Columbia’s executives pinched her cheek.


The last misfire before Ayres stepped out of the studio job was setting financing for Andy Warhol to make a film in Hollywood with his director, Paul Morrissey.  Ayres flew Warhol and his Factory cast out to Hollywood only to be told by Columbia the project was too rich for its corporate blood. 


Preferring not to fulfill Variety chief Peter Bart’s prediction that he was “going to take over this town” – a town Ayres had no desire to take over - he moved on to produce for himself.


In 1971 his first produced film was CISCO PIKE, the first starring role for Kris Kristofferson.  Also starring were Gene Hackman, Karen Black and Warhol’s Viva. Shot like an underground film and never coming onto the studio lot, it baffled Columbia’s distribution department who threw it into release without notice.  Only a full page rave by Stephen Farber in the Sunday New York Times kept it from sinking totally. 


Thirty-five years later the Los Angeles Times got around to writing an article claiming it to be the “best film about LA you’ve never seen.”  Ayres continues to think that Kristofferson’s performance is remarkable, rivaling his work in LONE STAR.  Directed and written by first timer Bill Norton, it was co-written by an un-credited Robert Towne.


After that involvement with his friend Towne, Ayres got him to write the script for THE LAST DETAIL.  After long struggle with Columbia management over the sailors’ racy language and a losing fight with the Nixon administration to get cooperation, Ayres took the production to Canada, one of the first Hollywood films to shoot entirely up north.  Hal Ashby was director.


THE LAST DETAIL starred Jack Nicholson in a performance that got him an Oscar nomination and won him the top award at Cannes.  Also nominated for Oscars were Randy Quaid for supporting actor and Robert Towne for his screenplay.  It won critics awards, BAFTRA awards, Golden Globe nominations and is considered a classic for both Nicholson and Ashby.


Upon receiving the finished film, Columbia management refused to release it.  They worried it was anti-government in that time when protestors were in the streets.  They held it up for nine months until they lost their company to a corporate takeover.  David Begelman, the new studio head, sent it immediately into release. 


Peter Biskind in his famous (or infamous, as some with scars would say) book, EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS, details the struggle Ayres had to get the film made. 


Siskel and Ebert were later to say in their program, THE LAST GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD, for their money THE LAST DETAIL was the best film of its year.


Following work on THE LAST DETAIL Ayres surprised, if not himself then the industry, by dropping out and going to a commune in the Sierras, ending his marriage and returning to town with his new mate, Nick Kudla. 


Peter Biskind was later to write that Ayres “was one of the few out-the-closet gay men in Hollywood at the time.”  Ayres responded that he had always “lived on the urgent edge of things” and hadn’t considered industry reaction, adding, “It’s odd to think that while I was keeping a step ahead of my demons I might have broken any barriers.”


This pause allowed him to get back to his first love, writing.  In 1980 he wrote an original, FOXES, based loosely on his daughter and her friends.  It was a re-telling of LITTLE WOMEN in part.  It was picked up by David Puttnam and they co-produced.  It starred Jodie Foster, Scott Baio and rock star Cherie Currie.  It was the first film directed by Adrian Lyne.


Some few years later a renegade theatre group in Los Angeles did a cross-dressing stage version of the film, titling it PHOXES.  In it, Margaret Cho played the Scott Baio role.


Ayres was next surprised when Ned Tanen of Universal called him having read an original script Ayres wrote loosely based on his friendship with Harrison Ford, called HARRY’S WORK.  Its portrayal of highlife in the Hollywood hills was not to Universal’s taste, but Tanen handed him an opportunity to work with legendary editor Verna Fields (JAWS and so many more).  With her as producer, he developed the screenplay for RICH AND FAMOUS. 


The film eventually made its way to MGM in 1980 thanks to star Jacqueline Bisset who picked the script out of a pile given her by her agent.  Deep gratitude to Jacqueline.  It was taken up by David Begelman now moved to MGM.  It starred Bisset and a wonderfully comic Candice Bergen.  A remarkable pairing of beauties.  It was the last film directed by legendary George Cukor, 80 at the time.  Producer was William Allyn.


Ayres won the Writer’s Guild award for Best Adapted Comedy of the Year for his script.


When LAST DETAIL was at Cannes, Ayres formed a friendship with Shelley Duvall and in 1982 wrote a script for   Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, RUMPELSTILSKIN.  Along with Duvall, it starred Ned Beatty and Herve Villechaize.


In 1991 Ayres was called in at the last moment to write a new script for STORMY WEATHERS, a TV caper starring Cybil Shephard.  He greatly enjoyed not only Cybil but working on a detective story, one of his guilty pleasures.


In 1992 he was nominated for an Ace Award for writing TNT’s CRAZY IN LOVE starring Holly Hunter, Gena Rowlands and Frances McDormand.  Directed by Martha Coolidge.  The cast was nominated for Ace Awards.  Herta Ware won for her supporting performance.


In 1994 he had a disappointing experience writing a four hour miniseries on the life of Elizabeth Taylor for NBC.  After completing a year of work on the script, he was dismayed to see how much the producer changed the script in production.  Though receiving sole credit, Ayres preferred to use a pseudonym.


In 2002 he was surprised by the first of what turned out to be four episodes of lymphoma cancer.  With the considerable support of his longtime mate, artist Nicola Filippo, he has returned to health. 


Ayres and Filippo spend their summers in an old farm house on the St.Lawrence River, upstate New York, where he is at work on a memoir (of course).




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