Robert Katz, a producer who worked on notable fact-based projects including Selena, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Gettysburg, has died. He was 79.
Katz died Wednesday at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys following a long battle with lung cancer, his family announced.
In 1986, Katz launched Esparza/Katz Productions with Moctesuma Esparza, and they produced more than 20 projects together, including the films Gettysburg (1993), The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca (1996), the Jennifer Lopez-starring Selena (1997) and Gods and Generals (2003).
Their television work included the 1997 TNT miniseries Rough Riders (1997), featuring Tom Berenger as Teddy Roosevelt; the 1999 HBO telefilm Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which starred Halle Berry and received an Emmy nomination for outstanding made for TV movie; and the 2006 HBO telefilm Walkout.
Katz landed an Oscar nomination in the best short film, live action category for Shoeshine (1987).
Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 1943, Katz served with the U.S. Marines as a jet fighter pilot. In the mid-1960s, he was sent to help train the Israeli Air Force.
Following his honorable discharge, he was a bush pilot in Africa who traveled with documentary film crews. This inspired him to become a filmmaker, and he produced more than 70 documentaries for French and American television about the wars of liberation in Africa.
Katz also was a founder of the medical education company Medcom Inc., which he took public, and a pioneer in the home video market, producing exercise projects with Jane Fonda, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
His time abroad gave him an entry point into the international sales and licensing of films, his family said.
More recently, Katz was working on projects including the feature Delfino’s Journey, based on a 2000 novel about an Aztec youngster by Jo Harper, and a miniseries about Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf based on his 1992 autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a Hero.
Katz was a founding member of Showhawks, an entertainment industry flying club based in L.A.
Survivors include his third wife, Patricia, and stepchildren Victoria, Skyler and Adysun. Burial will take place at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Mount Olive Memorial Cemetery in Commerce, California.