Highly respected US-based film and TV industry executive and producer Greg Coote, who was a pivotal figure in the renaissance of Australian cinema in the 1970s and 80s, has died at his home in Los Angeles.
A former joint CEO of Village Roadshow and executive producer on numerous Australian films and TV projects, Coote had cancer. He was 72.
In Australia his EP credits included Paradise Road, Blood Oath, The Delinquents, Lightning Jack, Hotel de Love, Turtle Beach, Joey and Diana & Me. Most recently he was EP on John V. Soto’s thriller The Reckoning, which opens in Australia in September.
“Greg was a champion of Australian films from the early 1970s and he continued being a great supporter of Australian filmmakers. His passing will be felt in many ways,” said Screen Producers Australia president Brian Rosen.
Producer Tony Buckley said, “Greg Coote was not only a personal friend but one of those rare individuals in the distribution business who was truly a gentleman and a trusted confidant. It was Greg who came up with the lines, ‘Life's tough enough for a woman alone, but with two kids and the Depression…it's a bugger!!…but not for Caddie.’
“His passion and support for Australian film is going to be sadly missed, and for me, his cheery voice coming down the phone line."
Director Phillip Noyce said, “He was one of the greats of the new wave of Australian film. A behind the scenes hero, who helped forge our cinema identity. My life was changed by Greg. He supported Roadshow’s investment in my first feature, Newsfront, and was beside producer David Elfick and myself from script through shooting and editing to the film’s release. Greg was one of the gentlest and most modest humans I have ever had the luck to meet. His frequent advice to me throughout my career as a filmmaker was always delivered from the heart.”
Coote was partnered with David Calvert-Jones in LA-based Larrikin Entertainment, a producer and financier of theatrical movies, TV programs and digital entertainment content.
He was also a non-executive director of Bollywood distributor Eros International, chairman of US distributor China Lion, chairman of the ScreenSingapore convention and a member of the advisory board of the Singapore Government’s Media Development Authority.
Previously he was chairman and CEO of Dune Entertainment, which co-financed more than 60 movies with 20th Century Fox, including Avatar.
Born in Australia, Greg started his career in the mailroom, working his way from the ground up to become MD of Roadshow Films He left Village Roadshow to head the Rupert Murdoch –owned Network Ten as MD. He then joined Columbia Pictures in Los Angeles as president, international theatrical.
He rejoined Village Roadshow when it became publicly listed and was appointed to the parent board. As the founding president and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures in Los Angeles, he steered the company through 10 consecutive years of profits and forged a multi-million-dollar production deal with Warner Bros., including The Matrix franchise.
Village Roadshow MD Graham Burke told IF he shared with Coote “a true lifetime of friendship from the very early days of Roadshow. Greg was the 5th person to join a brand new distribution company- we shared such fun & challenges- then we dealt together when Greg was CEO of Network Ten, then as President of Columbia international, then Roadshow Coote & Carroll and back together in the early exciting days of Village Roadshow Pictures. I have been frequently in touch with him these last few months. A lifetime of good spirits and adventures.”
Matt Carroll, who was partnered with Greg in production company Roadshow Coote & Carroll, said, "He was such a great part of the industry and my professional life for so long. It's not going to be the same without him around somewhere.
"His achievement of becoming a major Hollywood player and remaining such a generous Aussie bloke who was always ready with wise advice to so many in the industry here will be greatly missed.
"The risk he took by going to Hollywood and to Columbia was colossal. When David Puttnam walked from Columbia was a really tough time for him. But he clawed all that back and onto the triumph of Dune Entertainment and the amazing result for investors in that time with 20th Century Fox. He never stopped; he was working on his Asian ventures to the end."
Last December he launched Malaysian-based DragonSlate Media, a joint venture company with local producer Leon Tan, which aimed to produce English-language pictures for international markets.
ScreenWest CEO Ian Booth said, "Greg's passing is a tragic loss to his family and friends, and to the international screen industry. I trod the path of many other Australians heading to LA – popping in to his office to say hi, hoping to make some sort of link, and leaving as a friend. He was incredibly generous with his time and support to me personally and to the Western Australian film industry – using his amazing connections and contacts freely to advance others. His advice and support when sought was always given and I will miss his smile, firm handshake and 'Great to see you mate' greeting every time I saw him."
He is survived by his girlfriend of seven years Amanda Price, his brothers, Alan and Paul, his four children, Rebecca, Samantha, Suzanne and Diane, and four grandchildren, Alex, Toby, Luca and Edwina. He is also survived and mourned by his first wife Janice Mayo and his second wife Carol Olson Coote.
His family said, “To his community, Greg Coote was an extraordinary leader and advocate for the arts in the public schools. He founded an arts endowment campaign to fund arts programs in perpetuity and to create a model for other school districts around the state and country. He was a generous and strong individual who was able to bring people along with him when it came to making sure that the arts remained part of the public school curriculum.
“A gift in his memory would appropriately acknowledge his efforts and passion for the arts. To make a donation in Greg's memory, please send contributions to: Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (or SMMEF), 1645 16th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 and write Greg Coote in the memo line. Or, donate online at www.smmef.org/donate and enter Greg Coote in the acknowledgement box.”
His funeral will take place at 1 pm on Wednesday July 2 at Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery, 1847 14th St, Santa Monica. There will be a celebration of his life on July 12 at 6pm at 1010 Alta Ave. Santa Monica.
Details of the Sydney service will be announced soon.