Martin Bregman, producer of Scarface, dies aged 92

Producer Martin Bregman attending a Scarface reunion event at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, on August 23, 2011.
Producer Martin Bregman attending a Scarface reunion event at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, on August 23, 2011. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - Martin Bregman, the outspoken, notoriously tenacious film producer behind Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and other late-20th-century crime dramas, died last Saturday (June 16). He was 92.

The cause was a cerebral haemorrhage, his wife Cornelia told the New York television station WNBC. She did not say where he died.

"I have opinions, and I express them," Martin Bregman told The New York Times in 1987. "I don't let the director do whatever he wants. I guess that makes me seem like an anomaly."

Some of those directors were formidable. The first film Bergman ever produced was Sidney Lumet's Serpico (1973), the true story of a New York City cop who blew the whistle on police corruption and paid for it dearly. The film was also the beginning of a new kind of relationship with its star, Al Pacino, a former client who was then 33 and fresh from The Godfather. The pair and Lumet followed that with the offbeat bank-robbery drama Dog Day Afternoon (1975).

Their next collaboration, on Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983), was the story of a violent Cuban-American drug lord in Miami whose line: "Say hello to my little friend" (referring to his sizable automatic weapon) entered film immortality.

That film's premise was mirrored by Carlito's Way (1993), also directed by De Palma, with Pacino as a Puerto Rican criminal trying to go straight. In between, Bregman and Pacino did Sea Of Love (1989), a crime drama about a homicide detective and a serial killer (Ellen Barkin plays a suspect) who targets lonely men.

When Bregman wasn't working on projects about gangsters, crime and violence, he seemed to have a soft spot for relationship stories with at least a touch of idealism and wistful comedy. He produced five films with Alan Alda, beginning with The Seduction Of Joe Tynan (1979), about a US senator compromising his principles. Alda starred in, wrote and directed their next films together: The Four Seasons (1981), about midlife marriage; Sweet Liberty (1986), an affectionate look at academia's exposure to moviemaking; A New Life (1988), about midlife divorce; and Betsy's Wedding (1990), about a blue-collar Long Island man whose daughter is marrying a rich man.

Michael Caine, who worked with Bregman on Sweet Liberty, had high praise for his producer. Caine told The Times: "Most producers put on an act. They say, 'Look, ma, I'm producing,' but they conveniently have a phone call at the office whenever it's raining on the set."

Bregman, he recalled, was "actually there all the time" and "very efficient without all the noise and bluster that you get from so many producers".

Martin Leon Bregman was born in the Bronx on May 18, 1926, the son of Leon and Ida (Granowski) Bregman. He had polio as a child but recovered and attended Indiana University and New York University. As a young man, he worked as an insurance salesman and made his entry into the entertainment industry with a job as a nightclub agent.

A contact with real estate magnate Lewis Rudin helped him become a personal manager for stars including Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bette Midler and Faye Dunaway. He signed Pacino in 1968 after seeing him in the off-Broadway play The Indian Wants The Bronx and continued to represent him for years.

By the time Bregman produced his first film, it seemed like a midlife career change. He was 47.

Later in life, he tried other genres. He even produced a children's movie (Matilda in 1996) and a space fantasy (The Adventures Of Pluto Nash (2002). Although he produced his son Michael's 2005 video, a follow-up to Carlito's Way, his last theatrically released film was Carolina (2003), an eccentric romantic comedy with Julia Stiles and Shirley MacLaine.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Neither retirement nor age could keep Bregman out of the news - or court. In 2016, wealthy investors in his proposed film version of Nelson DeMille's novel The Gold Coast, which never happened, sued and won damages. The same year, Bregman's four-bedroom midtown Park Avenue apartment was on the market for just under US$10 million (S$13 million). Some said he was trying to raise money because of that case; others suggested it was because of the millions he owed to his first wife for back child support payments.

Three years before, when Alec Baldwin sued an alleged stalker for harassment, he told the court that the young woman - an actress in her early 40s - was actually Bregman's mistress. Bregman called Baldwin a liar.

"I'm 87 years old," Bregman told The New York Daily News at the time, presumably with a smile. "And that's very flattering, but that's all it is."