John Calley – Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award

Hailed for his intellectual rigor, sophisticated artistic sensibilities and calm, understated manner, John Calley is one of the most trusted and admired figures in Hollywood. Like Irving Thalberg, he has operated as both producer and studio executive at various points in his illustrious career. His numerous achievements include a Best Picture nomination as one of the producers of “The Remains of the Day” (1993), which received seven other nominations. Two other films he produced, “Postcards from the Edge” (1990) and “Closer” (2004), netted a total of four nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Meryl Streep in the earlier film. More recently, Calley produced the international sensation “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and its sequel, “Angels & Demons” (2009).

The New Jersey native began his career producing television with household names like Dinah Shore and Shirley Temple. It was a natural transition to Filmways Inc., a successful producer of both television series and features. There, Calley was involved with such notable films as “The Americanization of Emily” (1964), “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) and “Ice Station Zebra” (1968).

In 1969, he made the move to Warner Bros. where he served as executive vice president of worldwide production, president, and then vice chairman, as part of one of the most successful studio management teams in Hollywood history. Over the next 13 years, Warner Bros. releases included “The Exorcist,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Mean Streets,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “All the President’s Men,” “Superman,” “Deliverance” and Best Picture winner “Chariots of Fire.”

After a period of peaceful retirement, Calley was called to duty by United Artists, where he helped reverse the studio’s flagging fortunes as its president and chief operating officer. Highlights of his three-year tenure included the resurrection of the moribund James Bond franchise with “GoldenEye” (1995) and Nicolas Cage’s Best Actor-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995). Calley’s next turnaround job was as the top executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment, then coming off a string of commercial disappointments. Under his leadership, the studio returned to profitability and enjoyed such artistic successes as 1997’s “As Good as It Gets,” for which Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt received Academy Awards.

In 2003, Calley stepped down as Sony’s chairman and chief executive officer to once again devote his energies to producing films.

Did You Know?

  • He produced “Catch-22” (1970), now considered an anti-war classic, with an all-star cast that included Alan Arkin, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Martin Balsam, Buck Henry, Orson Welles and Bob Newhart.
  • His long association with director Mike Nichols began with “Catch-22” (1970); the pair continues to work together. In 2004, they collaborated on “Closer.”
  • He played Robert Downey Jr.’s father in the Mike Figgis drama “One Night Stand” (1997).
  • While at Warner Bros., he drove to work every morning with studio Chairman Ted Ashley.

Audio Testimonial

Listen to Academy governor Sid Ganis give a testimonial on John Calley.

Sid Ganis

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Selected Filmography

  • Angels & Demons (2009, Producer)
  • The Jane Austen Book Club (2007, Producer)
  • The Da Vinci Code (2006, Producer)
  • Closer (2004, Producer)
  • The Remains of the Day (1993, Producer)
  • Postcards from the Edge (1990, Producer)
  • Catch-22 (1970, Producer)
  • Castle Keep (1969, Producer)
  • Ice Station Zebra (1968, Producer)
  • Don't Make Waves (1967, Producer)
  • Eye of the Devil (1967, Producer)
  • The Cincinnati Kid (1965, Associate Producer)
  • The Loved One (1965, Producer)
  • The Sandpiper (1965, Associate Producer)
  • The Americanization of Emily (1964, Associate Producer)
  • The Wheeler Dealers (1963, Associate Producer)
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