"There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently." -- Robert Evans
Born Robert J. Shapera in New York City on June 29th, 1930, Robert Evans grew up on West End Avenue during the Great Depression. His father, Archie, was a dentist who ran the first racially integrated dental clinic in America (in Harlem, north of the family's residence). Archie was married to Florence, with whom he had three children: Charles, Robert, and Alice.
When Robert Evans was 12 years old, the family changed its surname to "Evans" as a tribute to Archie's dying mother (whose maiden name was Evan). At about the same time, Robert caught the acting bug and vaulted successfully into the business during wartime - with a costarring role on a top radio show, "Henry Aldrich." He also did stage work and became the youngest disc jockey in America with "The Robert Evans Show."
Although he was on the verge of breaking into films at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, a family business beckoned: older brother Charles had started, with a tailor named Joseph Picone, a women's clothing line. Robert joined Evan-Picone (as the company was called) - and became a millionaire before his 25th birthday. While in Beverly Hills to oversee a new Evan-Picone boutique, he was discovered by Academy Award-winning actress Norma Shearer by the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Ms. Shearer picked Robert to play her late husband, legendary mogul Irving Thalberg, in "Man of a Thousand Faces" (1957).
From there, Robert Evans landed a role in "The Sun Also Rises" (1957). The resulting publicity and attention meant that the lucrative Evan-Picone business would play second chair to his show business career. The lead role in the Western "The Fiend Who Walked the West" (1958) came next, followed by the glossy "The Best of Everything" (1959). He then made his initial venture into producing with a play, Ketti Frings' "The Umbrella," which closed before it could reach Broadway.
Shortly thereafter, Evan-Picone went public, bringing Robert and Charles considerable wealth. But Robert was determined to make producing movies his vocation. Based at 20th Century Fox, he acquired the film rights to Roderick Thorp's novel The Detective. An "Arts & Leisure" section profile in The New York Times on the active New York-based producer caught the attention of Gulf Western chieftain Charlie Bluhdorn. G W had just bought Paramount Pictures, and Bluhdorn picked Robert to head European production for Paramount Pictures.
Relinquishing his participation in the about-to-lens "The Detective," Robert relocated to London in 1966. He had scarcely spent time in the new job when an executive shakeup at Paramount led to Bluhdorn appointing Robert head of production at Paramount Pictures. Returning to the U.S., Robert moved to Beverly Hills and got to work generating a slate of movies at Paramount.
Over the next several years, his reputation was made on such Paramount successes as "The Odd Couple" (1968), "Romeo and Juliet" (1968), "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), "Goodbye, Columbus" (1969), "True Grit" (1969), the blockbuster "Love Story" (1970), "The Conformist" (1971), "Harold and Maude" (1972), "Serpico" (1973), "Don't Look Now" (1973), "Death Wish" (1974), "The Parallax View" (1974), and - most famously of all during this period - the Academy Award-winning "The Godfather" (1972). During this time, Paramount Pictures went from #9 at the boxoffice to #1, the leader of all major film studios.
When his contract was up, Robert realized his producing dream by forming Robert Evans Productions. The company was set up at Paramount - while Robert remained head of production at Paramount. His first picture as producer was the classic "Chinatown" (1974). Two other Paramount films from that same year were "The Godfather Part II" and "The Conversation," and all three movies received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture (with "The Godfather Part II" the victor).
He then left Paramount's executive suite to segue directly into producing Paramount releases, beginning with "Marathon Man" (1976). Subsequent films included the 1980 duo of "Urban Cowboy" and "Popeye," which attracted considerable attention and boxoffice. At the same time, though, Robert's involvement with cocaine began to threaten his career and even his life.
The troubled production and post-production of "The Cotton Club" (1984) exacerbated Robert's personal and professional struggles, which culminated in the shutdown of production on "The Two Jakes" in 1985. Robert was both producing and starring in the film, opposite longtime close friend Jack Nicholson. The film was eventually made four years later, with Robert still credited as producer. He never visited the set, but director/star Nicholson consulted him throughout production and post-production.
The legal and professional fallout from "The Cotton Club" continued for several long years. Robert was sidelined as a producer and even physically, battling personal demons.
In 1991, he rallied. His securing of the rights to the coveted "The Saint" property, coupled with a management shakeup at Paramount, led to a full reactivation of his production deal with the studio. He also began writing his autobiography. The first film that Robert made under the new arrangement was "Sliver" (1993), followed in quick succession by several more films, the most successful of which was "The Saint" (1997). Still based at Paramount, he is currently in active pre-production on "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and is preparing two other films.
Married and divorced five times, Robert is the father of actor/filmmaker Joshua Evans (whose mother is Ali MacGraw).