Gerald Ayres, film producer, writer
February 3, 1936
Gerald Ayres, film producer, writer
February 3, 1936
1957 – At Yale had plays produced both as under-
graduate and in
Yale Daily News and Yale Literary Magazine.
1959 – Started in films as Story Analyst for
1961 – Made East Coast Story Editor Columbia Pictures.
1964 – Sent to
Assistant to Head of Production, Mike Frankovich,.
1970 – Made Vice President in charge of production of
1971 – CISCO PIKE – first produced film, starred Kris
Kirstofferson, Gene Hackman and Warhol’s Viva.
1974 – THE LAST DETAIL – second produced film taken to
from Nixon administration. Nominated for three Oscars, won best actor at
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,
1992 – STORMY WEATHERS – script for ABC caper starring
1995 – LIZ TAYLOR: AN INTIMARE BIOGRAPHY – wrote four
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.
GERALD AYRES: FILM PRODUCER, WRITER
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
An English major, he pursued an interest in theatre and had plays produced by both the Yale Dramat and the graduate
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
His first taste of
In 1957 he married his
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
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
As surprising to Ayres as the scholarship to Yale was an offer in 1963 to go to
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, “
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
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
The last misfire before Ayres stepped out of the studio job was setting financing for Andy Warhol to make a film in
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
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
THE LAST DETAIL starred Jack Nicholson in a performance that got him an Oscar nomination and won him the top award at
Upon receiving the finished film,
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
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
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
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
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