Peter S. Davis, the producer of the popular cult Highlander franchise, died in his sleep February 21 at home in Calabasas, CA, his son, Joshua Davis, told Deadline. He was 79.
Davis began his career as a Wall Street lawyer and launched his own firm in his 20s before heading to Hollywood in 1977. He produced more than 20 films during his career, including the early Brad Pitt starrer Cutting Class (1988), Joe Pesci’s Family Enforcer aka Death Collector (1976), and Sam Peckinpah’s last film The Osterman Weekend (1983). He worked with Bob Shaye and Bill Panzer to produce New Line Cinema’s first film, Stunts starring Robert Forster.
Above all, Davis is known for The Highlander which began as an overlooked script written by UCLA undergrad Gregory Widen. Davis convinced Fox and Thorn/EMI to back the film in the early 1980s and recruited Sean Connery for the role of Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. Cristopher Lambert was set to play the lead before Davis discovered that Lambert couldn’t speak English fluently. This resulted in extensive re-recording in post. Nonetheless, Lambert transformed the role of Connor McLeod into a cinematic icon. The film became a hit in Europe and then found a rabid fanbase in the U.S. when it came out on VHS.
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The Highlander eventually grew into a franchise that now includes four feature films, over 140 episodes of television, an animated series, a sword business and a memorable Queen soundtrack.
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Even before his death, Davis pressed studio executives to push forward a Chad Stahelski reboot of Highlander with Neal Moritiz at Lionsgate. His son, Epic Magazine co-founder Joshua Davis, will step in as a producer to help complete the project for his late father.
His son, Joshua wrote that his dad “was a fixture of the independent film world, lunching at Le Dome or Ago in purple sunglasses and piloting a red convertible Masserati around town. In May, he decamped for the bar at the Majestic in Cannes, often trying to gin up foreign sales with posters for films that didn’t yet exist.
“For years, he lived on La Costa Beach in Malibu surrounded by dogs and fish tanks filled with moray eels and clown fish. He was an inveterate entrepreneur whose drive led him to start companies that ranged from an exotic car dealership on the Sunset Strip to an install-at-home pole dancing supply shop. He approached each endeavor with the same combination of intense focus, legal insight and unbuttoned paisley shirts.”
Davis is survived by his wife Katia Davis, his sister Vida Barron, children Joshua Davis and Danielle Davis, and two grandchildren.
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