NEW YORK (AP) – Arnold Kopelson, a versatile film producer whose credits ranged from the raunchy teen smash “Porky’s” to the Holocaust drama “Triumph of the Spirit” to the Oscar-winning “Platoon,” died Monday. He was 83.
Family spokesman Jeff Sanderson told The Associated Press that Kopelson died of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He is survived by his wife and business partner, Anne Kopelson, and by three children.
On Twitter, fellow director William Friedkin mourned his passing, and Joan Collins posted a picture of her with Kopelson and called him “a great friend, a brilliant producer and a fabulous dinner companion.”
A New York City native and graduate of New York Law School, Kopelson broke into show business as an entertainment and banking attorney and began producing films in the late 1970s. A notable and very profitable project was “Porky’s,” the low-budget and lowbrow comedy made in Canada after Hollywood shunned it that went on to make more than $100 million.
Kopelson would eventually aim higher. Director-screenwriter Oliver Stone had tried for years to get financing for “Platoon,” the Vietnam War drama based on his own time in the military. A 1984 deal with producer Dino De Laurentiis fell through and led to legal action.
Kopelson stepped in, and Stone was able to make “Platoon” after a tumultuous production in the Philippines in early 1986, during the time the country’s longtime president, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was being forced out of power.
“Platoon,” which starred Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger, came out in December 1986 and has been cited as the first major feature film about Vietnam directed by a veteran of the war. The film was a box office success and won four Academy Awards, including one for Kopelson for best picture.
Kopelson went on to produce other films, including the cult favorite “Seven”; “Triumph of the Spirit,” which starred Defoe as a boxer imprisoned in Auschwitz; “The Fugitive,” a best picture nominee in 1994; and “A Perfect Murder.”
In recent years, Kopelson served on the CBS board of directors and was in the news this past summer when a video he shot of media mogul Sumner Redstone became part of a lawsuit involving CBS and whether the 95-year-old Redstone was still able to make decisions.