Bob Rafelson, Director of 'Five Easy Pieces,' Dies at 89
Bob Rafelson, the director who worked with Jack Nicholson on seven films — including directing the classic "Five Easy Pieces" — died July 23 at his Aspen, Colorado, home.
He was 89.
Rafelson's death was confirmed to THR by his wife, Gabrielle.
Born February 21, 1933, in NYC, he became a key figure in what was in the '70s called "New Hollywood."
His first major contribution to popular culture came when he and his producing partner Bert Schneider (who died in 2011) co-created the unique TV series "The Monkees" (1966-1968). The unconventional comedy won him an Emmy.
He made his feature directorial debut on the Monkees' "Head" (1968), a musical satire noted for its prominent guest stars and scattered storyline.
Sole surviving Monkee Micky Dolenz remembered Rafelson warmly on Twitter Sunday, writing, "One day in the spring of 1966, I cut my classes in architecture at LA Trade Tech to take an audition for a new TV show called, 'The Monkees. The co-creator/producer of the show was Bob Rafelson. At first I mistook him for another actor there for the audition. Needless-to-say, I got the part and it completely altered my life. Regrettably, Bob passed away last night but I did get a chance to send him a message telling him how eternally grateful I was that he saw something in me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart my friend."
After career highs and lows with the Monkees, Rafelson directed "Five Easy Pieces" (1970) — one of seven films on which he worked with Jack Nicholson. Roger Ebert declared it the finest film of the year, and in 2000 it was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, both of which included Rafelson as a nominee. It won no Oscars, but won Best Director from the New York Film Critics Circle, and supporting actress Karen Black took several honors.
Rafelson also directed "The King of Marvin Gardens" (1972), the Arnold Schwarzenegger launchpad "Stay Hungry" (1976), a controversially sexually explicit remake of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981) that repulsed original star Lana Turner, "Black Widow" (1987), "Mountains of the Moon" (1990), "Man Trouble" (1992), an episode in the film "Picture Windows" (1995), "Blood and Wine" (1996), the TV movie "Poodle Springs" (1998), "No Good Deed" (2002), and several shorts.
His work as a producer was similarly lauded, including the classics "Easy Rider" (1969), Best Picture Oscar winner "The Last Picture Show" (1971), Nicholson's directorial debut "Drive, He Said" (1971), and the Oscar-winning antiwar doc "Hearts and Minds" (1974).
Returning to his music roots, he directed Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" music video in 1983. His son, Peter Rafelson, co-wrote Madonna's "Open Your Heart" on her "True Blue" album (1986).
Rafelson spectacularly lost the job of directing Robert Redford in 1980's "Brubaker" when he punched a Fox exec. He left filmmaking altogether in 2002.
Along with his songwriter son, he is survived by his wife Gabrielle and his two sons with her.