James D. Brubaker, who produced some of the most popular films of comedians Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey as well as the high-profile astronaut drama The Right Stuff, died today at his home in Beverly Hills of complications from a series of strokes. He was 85.
Launching his Hollywood career as a Teamster driving horses to John Wayne movie locations in Mexico, Brubaker was closely associated with the Rocky film franchise, serving as a driver on the first installment in 1976, a production manager on Rocky II in 1979, and Associate Producer on the third in 1982. He then exec produced Rocky IV in 1985 (the film was rereleased in 2021 as Rocky vs. Drago, with a new director’s cut by star Sylvester Stallone).
Brubaker’s association with Stallone also included serving as associate producer of 1984’s Rhinestone and exec producing 1986’s Cobra. He produced or co-produced three movies starring Murphy (The Nutty Professor, 1996; Life, 1999; and The Klumps, 2000). His two films with Carrey were Liar Liar in 1997 and Bruce Almighty in 2003.
In 1983 Brubaker exec produced the screen adaptation of The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolfe’s bestselling book about the early days of the U.S. space program.
Other producing credits include A Walk in the Clouds starring Keanu Reeves, Dragonfly with Kevin Costner, and Gia with Angelina Jolie. Brubaker was a unit production manager on such films as Raging Bull, Comes a Horseman, New York, New York, Rhinestone, True Confessions, Patty Hearst, Godfather Part II, and Staying Alive.
Brubaker was President of Physical Production at Universal Studios from 2003 to 2008, during which time he supervised over 50 films in 14 countries. His final feature film was 2014’s Chef, written, directed by John Favreau.
Brubaker is survived by his wife of thirty years, Marcy Kelly, three children from his first marriage (Marcei Brubaker Brown; Susan Brubaker Gublet; and John Alden Brubaker) and five grandchildren. His stepson Michael James Kelly predeceased him.
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