Life Lessons from Film Producer Jerry Weintraub

When I Stop Talking, Youll Know Im Dead

Legendary film producer Jerry Weintraub recalls life lessons that helped him become the person he is in "When I Stop Talking You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man."

Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

Introduction

This book is not the story of my entire life, nor is it the catalogue of my every adventure. It is not meant to exhaust every era nor chronicle every detail. It is instead a tour of just those select moments of hilarity or epiphany—at home and in the office, in the bedroom, studio, and arena—that pushed me this way or that and gave my life direction. The crucial hours, that's what I am after. I also mean it as a chronicle and tribute to some of the great figures of my time, the few I influenced and the many who influenced me. I have been fortunate to have known more than a couple of great people and to have worked with more than a couple of great artists. The story of these people, men and women, is the story of my age, and I consider myself fortunate to have been born in the right nation with the right parents at the right moment. In short, this book, if it is working, should read less like a text than like a conversation, a late-night talk in which a man who likes to talk and happens to have been alive a long time and had his nose in everything tells you of the high points, the grand moments, and the stunning incidents when everything was sharp and clear. I sometimes think a person is a kind of memory machine. You collect, and sort, and remember, then you tell. Looking back—and telling is nothing but looking back—I have come away with a profound sense of humility. I suppose this comes from recognizing my life as a pattern, a cohesive collection of incidents whose author I cannot quite discern. In other words, the more I live, the more amazed I am by living. And maybe that's right. As G–D says in an old book, "What you have been given is yours to understand, but the rest belongs to me."

The Star of Ardaban

I have a philosophy of life, but I don't live by it and never could practice it. Now, at seventy-two, I realize every minute doing one thing is a minute not doing something else, every choice is another choice not made, another path grown over and lost. If asked my philosophy, it would be simply this: Savor life, don't press too hard, don't worry too much. Or as the old-timers say, "Enjoy." But, as I said, I never could live by this philosophy and was, in fact, out working, hustling, trading, scheming, and making a buck as soon as I was old enough to leave my parents' house.

When I was ten, Robert Mitchum was arrested in the cold-water flat across the street from our apartment in the Bronx. I remember Robert Mitchum as the husky, sleepy-eyed actor who played all those noirish roles that told you there was something not so squeaky clean in Bing Crosby's America, but Mitchum got those parts only after the arrest, in which he was caught in bed with two girls in the middle of the day smoking dope. No small scandal. In those days, merely staying in bed till 9:00 a.m. was considered suspicious. It would have been the end of his career if not for some genius movie producer who realized all that public disgust could be harnessed by repackaging the actor into a dark, interesting, complicated character.

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