Irwin Winkler

Irwin Winkler (born May 25, 1931) is an American film producer and director. He is the producer or director of over 50 motion pictures, dating back to 1967's Double Trouble, starring Elvis Presley. The fourth film he produced, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), starring Jane Fonda, was nominated for nine Academy Awards. He won an Oscar for Best Picture for 1976's Rocky. As a producer, he has been nominated for Best Picture for three other films: Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, and Goodfellas.

Irwin Winkler
Born (1931-05-25) May 25, 1931
EducationB.A. New York University
Margo Winkler
(m. 1959)
ChildrenCharles Winkler
David Winkler
Adam Winkler
Parent(s)Sol Winkler
Anna Winkler

Early life and education

Winkler was born to a Jewish family[1][2] in New York City, to Sol and Anna Winkler. Growing up in Coney Island, one of his first jobs was on a bumper ride on the boardwalk.[3] Winkler graduated early from high school and got into New York University (NYU), but felt out of place among the older and more mature students, many of whom were former WWII soldiers that had entered university under the G.I. Bill. At the outbreak of the Korean War, he volunteered to join the Army and was stationed in Louisiana for two years.[3] After completing his service, Winkler returned to NYU and went on to receive a degree in American Literature in 1955.[4]

Early career

Winkler's first job after graduating university was at the William Morris Agency (WMA).[4] Starting out in the mail room, some of his fellow mailboys were Bernie Brillstein and Jerry Weintraub. Among his first clients as an agent were comedians Sammy Shore and Jackie Vernon, though Winkler says of himself he was a "mediocre" agent.[5]

After meeting Robert Chartoff, who managed several comedians, including Jackie Mason, the two set up their own talent management company.[6] Among the "unsuccessful clients"[3] the William Morris Agency allowed him to take with him at the time was Nat Cohen, the producer of the British Carry On series of films. One of their first clients as agents was the actress Julie Christie, whose screentest for Doctor Zhivago they arranged.[7] Through another of their clients, Winkler and Chartoff brokered the John Schlesinger film Darling to film producer Joseph E. Levine. This deal led them from talent management to film production.[5]

Career as film producer and director

Forming the production company Winkler-Chartoff Productions, Winkler began producing films with his partner Robert Chartoff in the late 1960s. Their first effort (along with Judd Bernard), was John Boorman's thriller Point Blank (1967), largely ignored in its day but now regarded as a top film of the time. Adding Sydney Pollack to their production team for one project, they garnered critical acclaim for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Their next film, The Strawberry Statement (1970), won the Jury Prize at Cannes. Chartoff and Winkler achieved their greatest success yet with Rocky (1976), which earned the Academy Award as Best Picture. Subsequently, the producing duo picked up Best Picture Oscar nominations for Raging Bull (1980) and The Right Stuff (1983), their last project together before Chartoff-Winkler Productions dissolved in 1985.[7] Winkler launched his solo career with Revolution (1985).

Winkler produced such noteworthy features as Bertrand Tavernier's Round Midnight (1986) and back-to-back Costa-Gavras films, Betrayed (1988) and Music Box (1989), before receiving another Best Picture Oscar nomination for Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990). He also returned to the franchise to oversee Rocky IV (1985) and Rocky V (1990), continuing the association forged with Sylvester Stallone on their first three Chartoff-Winkler productions.

Approaching the age of 60, Winkler moved into the director's chair, debuting with Guilty by Suspicion (1991), a drama (which he also scripted) about the Hollywood blacklist that starred Robert De Niro. His second feature, the unsuccessful 1992 remake of Night and the City, also starred De Niro. Winkler had better luck at the box office as writer-director of the Sandra Bullock vehicle The Net (1995), which spawned a series of the same name debuting on the USA Network in 1998.

Life as a House (2001) is the tale of a depressed dying man (Kevin Kline) who funnels his energies into rebuilding the dilapidated beach shack he inherited from his abusive father and, in the process, building bridges between himself and his disaffected son (Hayden Christensen). After this film received critical praise, Winkler re-teamed with Kline for the follow-up De-Lovely (2004), casting the actor as the lead in his biographical film about American composer Cole Porter, which centered on his unique relationship with his wife and muse (Ashley Judd).

While his directorial career would last through 2006, Winkler continued to produce his share of films, including The Shipping News (2001), Enough (2002), the 2014 remake of The Gambler -- he'd also produced James Toback's 1974 original -- and his further return to the Rocky franchise with Rocky Balboa (2006) and the spin-offs-sequels Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018). His work with Scorsese carried on with The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Silence (2016), and Winkler is currently producing The Irishman, due to premiere in 2019. The film is Winkler's first collaboration with Netflix.[3]

In 2019, Winkler published his autobiography A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood.

On July 23, 2019 in an interview with Variety, Sylvester Stallone said that a Rocky sequel and prequel are in development. Winkler said “We’re very high on it" and that negotiations are underway for Stallone to write and star in the feature. “We’re very anxious to make it.” Stallone also said there are "ongoing discussions" about a Rocky prequel television series, which he hopes will land on a streaming service and the series will likely follow a young Rocky Balboa as a professional boxing hopeful. Stallone said Winkler is hesitant on making the series saying that "There was some conflict there, yes. He felt in his mind that “Rocky” was primarily a feature film, and he didn't see it as being translated for cable, so there was a big bone of contention."[8][9]

Personal life

Winkler married his wife Margo in 1959 while still working at WMA in New York. They moved to Los Angeles in 1966. Margo was originally from California and her parents, Irma and Charlie Melson, were former Vaudeville performers.[3] The couple have three sons, Charles, David and Adam. Charles and David are both film producers and directors in their own right. Together with their father, they run the production company "Winkler Films". Winkler's youngest son Adam is a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law and a published author.


As producer

As director


For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Irwin Winkler has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard. He was also the recipient of the 2017 Producers Guild of America's David O. Selznick Achievement Award for his work in motion pictures.

Awards and nominations

1977Academy AwardsBest PictureRockyWon
1981Academy AwardsBest PictureRaging BullNominated
1984Academy AwardsBest PictureThe Right StuffNominated
1991BAFTA AwardsBest FilmGoodfellasWon
1991Academy AwardsBest PictureGoodfellasNominated
1991Cannes Film FestivalPalme d'OrGuilty by SuspicionNominated[10]
1999Hollywood Film FestivalHollywood Film AwardOutstanding Achievement in ProducingWon
2001Aspen FilmfestAudience Favorite FeatureLife as a HouseWon


  1. Erens, Patricia (1998). The Jew in American Cinema. Indiana University Press. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-253-20493-6.
  2. J Weekly: "Celebrity Jews" by Nate Bloom. May 28, 2004
  3. "WTF with Marc Maron, Episode 1015: Irwin Winkler". May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  4. King, Susan (July 7, 2010). "Hollywood Star Walk: Irwin Winkler". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  5. Champlin, Charles (January 11, 1986). "Irwin Winkler's 'Rocky' Road to Glory". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  6. Chawkins, Steve (June 11, 2015). "Robert Chartoff dies at 81; Producer of 'Rocky,' 'Raging Bull'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  7. Barnes, Mike (June 10, 2015). "Robert Chartoff, Producer of 'Rocky' and 'Raging Bull,' Dies at 81". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  8. "Sylvester Stallone Feels Robbed of an Ownership Stake in 'Rocky': 'I Was Furious'". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  9. "Sylvester Stallone Reveals 'Rocky' Sequel and Prequel Are in Development". Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  10. "Festival de Cannes: Guilty by Suspicion". Retrieved August 9, 2009.


  • Winkler, Irwin. A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood. New York, Abrams Press, 2019
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