Larry Gordon has been one of the entertainment industry’s most prolific and successful producers in a career spanning five decades. He has been behind such timeless films as the drama Field of Dreams, for which Gordon received a Best Picture Oscar® nomination; the landmark action film Die Hard; and the ultimate buddy picture 48 Hrs., starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy.
Born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Gordon graduated from Tulane University with a degree in business administration. Moving to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, he went to work as executive assistant to Aaron Spelling at Four Star Television and soon became a writer and associate producer of many Spelling shows. He followed with a stint as head of West Coast talent development for ABC Television and later as an executive with Bob Banner Associates. In 1968, he joined Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson at American International Pictures (AIP) as story editor, and rose to vice president in charge of development. He then segued to vice president at Screen Gems, the television division of Columbia Pictures, where he helped put together the classic television movie Brian’s Song, as well as the first “novel for television,” the adaptation of Leon Uris’ QB VII.
Accepting an offer to become the first executive in the company’s history to head worldwide production, Gordon returned to AIP. His many projects included Coffy, Foxy Brown, Hell’s Angels ‘69, Wild in the Streets, John Milius’ Dillinger (which Gordon also executive produced) and Ralph Bakshi’s groundbreaking and controversial animated hit Heavy Traffic, which was named one of The New York Times Top Ten films of 1973.
Gordon then formed Lawrence Gordon Productions and began a long and successful association with director Walter Hill. Among the duo’s memorable titles are Hard Times, starring Charles Bronson; The Driver, with Ryan O’Neal and Isabelle Adjani; the cult classic The Warriors; 48 Hrs., teaming Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in his feature film debut; the rock-and-roll fable Streets of Fire; Brewster’s Millions, with Richard Pryor and John Candy; and Another 48 Hrs., which reunited the stars from the original. Gordon also produced the comedy hit The End, starring Burt Reynolds, and collaborated with Reynolds again on the box office smash Hooper. During this period, Gordon also produced the Paul Schrader-penned Rolling Thunder, and the now-cult movie musical Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. In 1982, he reunited with his old boss Aaron Spelling to create and executive produce the ABC television series Matt Houston.
In 1984, Gordon became president and chief operating officer of 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw such successful titles as James Cameron’s Aliens; James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News; Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Jewel of the Nile, starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. During his tenure, the television series The Simpsons was created by Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, as were shows by Stephen Bochco and David E. Kelley.
After his stint at Fox, in 1986, Gordon produced the critically acclaimed Lucas, marking the directorial debut of David Seltzer, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash, starring Whoopi Goldberg, which was Penny Marshall’s first film as a director.
During the 1980s, Gordon also produced for the stage. For Broadway, he produced the 1986 musical Smile, with music by Tony, Grammy and Oscar® winner Marvin Hamlisch and book and lyrics by Tony and Oscar® winner Howard Ashman. Off-Broadway, Gordon produced the 1982 revival of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane, which won the Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Play.
For the screen, Gordon produced the 1987 summer action hit Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and later, its sequel. In 1988, he produced the mega-blockbuster Die Hard, which introduced Bruce Willis as an action hero and forever changed the action genre. The film went on to spawn three hit sequels, in addition to becoming one of cinema’s most successful and imitated franchises.
The following year, Gordon produced another seminal hit, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner under the direction of Phil Alden Robinson. The beloved film earned three Oscar® nominations, including one for Best Picture, while the title itself and the famous line “If you build it…” became part of the cultural lexicon.
Gordon subsequently produced Family Business, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick; the comedy hit K-9, starring James Belushi; The Rocketeer, directed by Joe Johnston; and Lock Up, starring Sylvester Stallone.
In 1989, Gordon formed Largo Entertainment with the backing of JVC Entertainment, Inc. of Japan, representing the first major Japanese investment in the entertainment industry. As the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, Gordon was responsible for the production of such films as Point Break, starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves; Unlawful Entry, starring Kurt Russell, Ray Liotta and Madeleine Stowe; Used People, starring Shirley MacLaine, Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Marcia Gay Harden and Marcello Mastroianni; and Timecop, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Largo also co-financed and handled the foreign distribution of the acclaimed biopic Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington in the title role.
Gordon left Largo in 1994 in favor of a long-term producing deal with Universal Pictures. There, his first production was the controversial Kevin Costner-starrer Waterworld, which grossed $300 million worldwide. Other Lawrence Gordon Productions films include The Devil’s Own, starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt; the critically acclaimed Boogie Nights, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham and Julianne Moore; and Mystery Men, starring Ben Stiller.
In 2001, Gordon produced two pictures that opened at number one at the box office: the summer hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie; and the acclaimed K-PAX, starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. In summer 2003, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life was released, with Jolie back as Lara Croft.
The next year, Gordon produced Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, based on the popular Mike Mignola comic book series and starring Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. In summer 2008, he scored an even bigger hit with its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, reuniting the original cast and filmmakers. He subsequently produced the big screen version of Watchmen, the only graphic novel to win the Hugo Award be named among Time magazine’s “100 Best English-Language Novels From 1923 to the Present.”
Gordon was a member of the Board of Directors of the Producers Guild of America (PGA). He served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as the Board of the American Film Institute. He is a recipient of the ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award and the PGA’s prestigious David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award.