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Following two hugely successful years as head of marketing and distribution for Island Pictures, RUSSELL SCHWARTZ assumed the presidency of the company at the end of 1986. As such, he will continue to make distinctive independent films for a discerning segment of the population which made unexpected hits of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "The Trip to Bountiful," "Mona Lisa," "She's Gotta Have It" and "River's Edge," among others.
"We lean towards films with a strong identity, an edge, and if they present a marketing challenge, all the better," he comments. "The Island moviegoer is a little older -- 22 plus -- sophisticated and discriminating. We keep that audience very much in mind when we choose to make or distribute. At the same time, if we come across a project like 'A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon' which because of its star and subject matter has cross-over potential, we grab it." The aforementioned "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "The Trip to Bountiful" won their respective stars -- William Hurt and Geraldine Page -- Academy Awards in 1986, the first time ever that stars from non-mainstream movies captured both top acting honors. Subsequent releases such as the British "Mona Lisa" (for which Bob Hoskins received a 1987 Oscar nomination) and the spunky "She's Gotta Have It" found favor with the critics and audiences and are formidable proof of Island and Schwartz's intentions.
A member of the film-conscious Sixties generation, Schwartz was born and raised in New York City and received a degree in philosophy from Hunter College in 1969. Upon graduation, he immediately became a film lecturer at Hunter and while he taught filmmaking pursued a career making documentaries outside the classroom.
His first effort was "The Free Life," a documentary about a trans-Atlantic balloon crossing which premiered at the Whitney Museum's New American Film Series. He then began to do programming for the Regency Theater in Manhattan.
At the Regency, he premiered such highly regarded speciality pictures as "Antonia, Portrait of a Woman" and "I. F. Stone's Weekly." Later, he transformed the Regency into a revival house, and it remains the most successful theater of its kind in the country. He also revived the cult classic "Reefer Madness" -- thus commencing his career in film distribution.
In 1975 Schwartz co-founded the Film League, which released "Cousin, Cousine" and "Short Eyes," among other films, and he acted as a producer's representative for directors Martin Scorsese ("The Last Waltz"), Bernardo Bertolucci ("1900"), Jack Nicholson ("Goin' South") and Peter Bogdanovich ("Saint Jack"). His association with Bogdanovich continued when he became line producer of the director's 1980 film "They All Laughed."
Shortly after the film was completed, Schwartz pulled up stakes and moved West, becoming vice president of sales for Landmark Films in Los Angeles. There he supervised the marketing of Jeanne Moreau's "L'Adolescente" as well as Kurosawa's classic "The Seven Samurai." About this time, Schwartz also renewed acquaintance with writer-director William Richert, whom he met ten years earlier when he worked on the release of Richert's ballet film "First Position." He joined forces with Richert and his partner, Claire Townsend, in the re-release of "Winter Kills" and "Success."
"I wanted Bill to make 'A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon' for us as soon as I came to Island, which was October, 1983," recalls Schwartz. Various organizational matters intervened, but it went before the cameras in the summer of 1986, the third in-house production, following "Down By Law" and "Nobody's Fool."
Born in the Bronx, MEL KLEIN has worked in many arenas of the entertainment world. 1987 is his eighth year with the Island Group; he is presently Island Pictures' executive vice president and chief financial officer. He previously served as Island Records' vice president of finance for five years.
Klein's other experience in the music world includes a position as vice president of finance with Polydor Records, and he is the owner of Tuxedo Music, a label which produces dance music.
A bi-coastal executive, Klein lives and works in both New York and Los Angeles. His wife and children are based in New York.
"A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon" marks Mr. Klein's first film as executive producer.