If you saw “Chariots of Fire,” (1981), “Gandhi” (1982), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) or “Dances With Wolves,” (1990), you saw remarkable movies that were box office hits and each won the Academy Award for best picture.
None of these movies would have been made without Jake.
Perhaps you saw “The Killing Fields” (1984), “City of Joy” (1992) or the ecology documentary, “Oceans,” (2009) and if so you were once again swept up in powerful films produced by Jake.
Among other films Jake produced or co-produced were “A River Runs Through It” (1992), directed by Robert Redford and the heartwarming documentary “March of the Penguins.” (2005).
From the start, Jake became an unusual film producer making only films that appealed to him on a spiritual basis, films he thought would be deeply meaningful to audiences around the world. As a result, he financed in whole or in part those movies, risking his and his investors’ money to do it.
For 20 years Richard Attenborough had tried to make “Gandhi,” until he met his financial angel in Jake. “Gandhi” won eight academy awards and has become a movie classic.
As for “Driving Miss Daisy,” in 1990 “Daisy” film maker Richard Zanuck told The New York Times, ”Without Jake Eberts ‘Miss Daisy’ would never have been made” for it had been rejected by every major studio.
So who was Jake Eberts and how did he get into the movie business? Jake was born in Montreal on July 7th, 1941. He later attended McGill University and became a chemical engineer, but was not happy or successful as a chemical engineer and quit.
To start a new career, he earned an MBA from Harvard and got a job selling diesel engines, but didn’t sell a single diesel engine. He then became an investment banker on Wall Street and then in London, but he didn’t do well, as he struggled to support his wife and children.
It appeared he would never become successful in his career.
But then in 1974, 33 year old Jake was approached to raise money for an animated film about some rabbits. He raised the money to make “Watership Down” (1978), a box office and critical hit and Jake knew he had found his joy and his professional purpose in life.
From then on, he was a successful and respected movie producer and financier and across his lifetime he produced over 60 films.
But late in 2010, Jake was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and on September 6th, 2012 he passed away in Montreal at the age of 71. He is survived by his wife Fiona and by their daughter Lindsay, and their sons David and Alexander.
But Jake is also survived by millions of movie fans all over the world who love his films, many of which have timeless stories. In recent years, Jake worked with National Geographic on various projects, including a new movie, “Mysteries of the Unseen World,” awaiting theatrical release.
How did he select which films to produce and finance? “He never did anything according to a plan or a strategy, ever” his wife Fiona told The New York Times. “He literally did it through his gut. He said: ‘If it makes me cry, why wouldn’t it make Joe Public cry? I’m just an average Joe.’ “