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A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood

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A rollicking autobiography from the legendary producer of Goodfellas, Rocky, and Raging Bull, and an insider’s account of making movies in Hollywood over half a century   The list of films Irwin Winkler has produced in his more-than-fifty-year career is extraordinary: Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, De-Lovely, The Right Stuff, and Creed. His films have been nominated for f A rollicking autobiography from the legendary producer of Goodfellas, Rocky, and Raging Bull, and an insider’s account of making movies in Hollywood over half a century   The list of films Irwin Winkler has produced in his more-than-fifty-year career is extraordinary: Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, De-Lovely, The Right Stuff, and Creed. His films have been nominated for fifty-two Academy Awards, including five movies for Best Picture, and have won twelve. Winkler’s new film Creed II, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, opening fall 2018, will be followed by Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, a major mafia saga for Netflix starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. In A Life in Movies, his charming and insightful memoir, Winkler tells the stories of his career through his many films as a producer and then as a writer and director, charting the changes in Hollywood over the past decades. Winkler started in the famous William Morris mailroom and made his first film—starring Elvis—in the last days of the old studio system. Beginning in the late 1960s, and then for decades to come, he produced a string of provocative and influential films, making him one of the most critically lauded, prolific, and commercially successful producers of his era. This is an engrossing and candid book, a beguiling exploration of what it means to be a producer, including purchasing rights, developing scripts, casting actors, managing directors, editing film, and winning awards.Filled with tales of legendary and beloved films, as well as some not-so-legendary and forgotten ones, A Life in Movies takes readers behind the scenes and into the history of Hollywood.


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A rollicking autobiography from the legendary producer of Goodfellas, Rocky, and Raging Bull, and an insider’s account of making movies in Hollywood over half a century   The list of films Irwin Winkler has produced in his more-than-fifty-year career is extraordinary: Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, De-Lovely, The Right Stuff, and Creed. His films have been nominated for f A rollicking autobiography from the legendary producer of Goodfellas, Rocky, and Raging Bull, and an insider’s account of making movies in Hollywood over half a century   The list of films Irwin Winkler has produced in his more-than-fifty-year career is extraordinary: Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, De-Lovely, The Right Stuff, and Creed. His films have been nominated for fifty-two Academy Awards, including five movies for Best Picture, and have won twelve. Winkler’s new film Creed II, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, opening fall 2018, will be followed by Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, a major mafia saga for Netflix starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. In A Life in Movies, his charming and insightful memoir, Winkler tells the stories of his career through his many films as a producer and then as a writer and director, charting the changes in Hollywood over the past decades. Winkler started in the famous William Morris mailroom and made his first film—starring Elvis—in the last days of the old studio system. Beginning in the late 1960s, and then for decades to come, he produced a string of provocative and influential films, making him one of the most critically lauded, prolific, and commercially successful producers of his era. This is an engrossing and candid book, a beguiling exploration of what it means to be a producer, including purchasing rights, developing scripts, casting actors, managing directors, editing film, and winning awards.Filled with tales of legendary and beloved films, as well as some not-so-legendary and forgotten ones, A Life in Movies takes readers behind the scenes and into the history of Hollywood.

30 review for A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood: Stories from 50 years in Hollywood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gayle Noble

    If you are interested in the behind-the-scenes effort that goes in to film-making, then this is the memoir for you. Packed with stories from behind the camera from films such as Goodfellas, Rocky, and the Wolf of Wall Street, this is an interesting read. I had some idea of the deal-making of Hollywood, but not the sheer scale of it and how many things can go wrong, meaning a film doesn't get made after all. Best of all, I now have a list of films to watch, some of which I hadn't heard of before. If you are interested in the behind-the-scenes effort that goes in to film-making, then this is the memoir for you. Packed with stories from behind the camera from films such as Goodfellas, Rocky, and the Wolf of Wall Street, this is an interesting read. I had some idea of the deal-making of Hollywood, but not the sheer scale of it and how many things can go wrong, meaning a film doesn't get made after all. Best of all, I now have a list of films to watch, some of which I hadn't heard of before. Thanks to NetGalley and publishers, Abrams Press, for the opportunity to review an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    For those of us who love film this is a fine look at the career of Irwin Winkler who was responsible for some of the best films ever made. Winkler takes us through his career film by film and gives the reader capsule views of the difficulties and triumphs of making each of his movies. I must admit to liking the backstories of some of my favorites, including GOODFELLAS and De-Lovely. Great anecdotes about stars, producers, directors and writers. It was fun to reflect with Winkler on his incredibl For those of us who love film this is a fine look at the career of Irwin Winkler who was responsible for some of the best films ever made. Winkler takes us through his career film by film and gives the reader capsule views of the difficulties and triumphs of making each of his movies. I must admit to liking the backstories of some of my favorites, including GOODFELLAS and De-Lovely. Great anecdotes about stars, producers, directors and writers. It was fun to reflect with Winkler on his incredible career and contributions to film.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mediaman

    If you like the tough-guy Irwin Winkler productions you may enjoy this book, even though it doesn't offer a lot of surprises. It's more of a filmmaking diary that rambles on and on, at times one paragraph taking up an entire page. For a man who talks about the importance of editing film and telling a story on screen he surprisingly doesn't show the same concern for his writing. This book needs cuts in every chapter and every page to cut out some of the absolutely insignificant things like multip If you like the tough-guy Irwin Winkler productions you may enjoy this book, even though it doesn't offer a lot of surprises. It's more of a filmmaking diary that rambles on and on, at times one paragraph taking up an entire page. For a man who talks about the importance of editing film and telling a story on screen he surprisingly doesn't show the same concern for his writing. This book needs cuts in every chapter and every page to cut out some of the absolutely insignificant things like multiple phone calls to different people. The "stories" he puts into the book are often nothing more than business negotiating. "Who cares?" came to mind a number of times. It was like Winkler just was going through old appointment book and phone call notes that he kept. There are some insights into how some of his famous movies were made but, honestly, not enough. He could have provided much more significant information. At times he starts writing about a movie's pre-production stage, then doesn't say anything about the actual months or years it took to make the film or what happened once it premiered. Most of his praise is for his own movies and those he worked with, but many of the movies he thinks were great I thought were weak or bombs, and some of the movies he slams that others made were actually quite good, as proven by the boxoffice. So he overstates his own movies' success while putting down competing films that actually did better with audiences. There are a few times he slams some in Hollywood by name (we're talking about you Oliver Stone) but he overpraises De Niro, Stallone, and others that are famously difficult to work with. So in the end the book seems quite self-serving: it's a way for a man to memorialize his own successes near the end of his life. It would have been better if real research would have been conducted by an objective co-author where we'd hear the perspectives of others, and Winkler challenged to come up with much better behind-the-scenes stories of his famous films. Screen students will benefit from some of this, but for the average reader this book is neither a hit or a flop.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    I’m not normally eager to read about producers but Irwin Winkler has had a hand in some great movies. On that score, this really delivers as he takes you through the nuts and bolts of classics like Rocky, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. What was unexpected was hearing about the movies he didn’t make and why. The sections on Basic Instinct and Nixon stick out and Winkler is not afraid to call people out, which Is the closest this gets to gossip. What’s unavoidable is reading about films I never heard I’m not normally eager to read about producers but Irwin Winkler has had a hand in some great movies. On that score, this really delivers as he takes you through the nuts and bolts of classics like Rocky, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. What was unexpected was hearing about the movies he didn’t make and why. The sections on Basic Instinct and Nixon stick out and Winkler is not afraid to call people out, which Is the closest this gets to gossip. What’s unavoidable is reading about films I never heard of and don’t care about but he keeps it moving. Look up Winkler’s filmography, if you like even half the movies, this is a breezy read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    It's hard not to like Winkler's sincere book, and considering his list of credits, there's almost enough anecdotal information to keep you interested. Almost. The movies are too good to gloss over so fast, and the lack of transitions makes time periods unclear, as well. Winkler focusing on his own rather mediocre directing isn't all that thrilling, but his knockabout encounters within a business uncomfortable with producing underdog stories like "Rocky" or sociopathic masterpieces like "Raging B It's hard not to like Winkler's sincere book, and considering his list of credits, there's almost enough anecdotal information to keep you interested. Almost. The movies are too good to gloss over so fast, and the lack of transitions makes time periods unclear, as well. Winkler focusing on his own rather mediocre directing isn't all that thrilling, but his knockabout encounters within a business uncomfortable with producing underdog stories like "Rocky" or sociopathic masterpieces like "Raging Bull" are intriguing. Still worth reading for what's assembled, but the man's career deserves a better writer to cover it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Dishes all the juicy Life As a House dirt that a person could hope for!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Note: I was loaned a digital ARC copy of this title by Edelweiss and the publisher in return for my honest review. Winkler has been involved in some of Hollywood’s most interesting projects and his insight is both interesting and entertaining. This is a man who has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names (Presley, Fonda, Reynolds, Scorsese, De Niro, Bullock, Moore, Stallone, the list goes on and on) on some of the most well-known movies of all time (all the Rocky movies, Raging Bull, Last T Note: I was loaned a digital ARC copy of this title by Edelweiss and the publisher in return for my honest review. Winkler has been involved in some of Hollywood’s most interesting projects and his insight is both interesting and entertaining. This is a man who has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names (Presley, Fonda, Reynolds, Scorsese, De Niro, Bullock, Moore, Stallone, the list goes on and on) on some of the most well-known movies of all time (all the Rocky movies, Raging Bull, Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas…) It’s written chronologically, focusing on each of his movies. His stories are incredibly interesting, giving background and context to some of my favorite movies. Still, his writing is sometimes difficult to follow. He blows through everything so quickly and I often wished there were moments he explored more fully. As well, there’s a dizzying number of names being thrown around. Often, he’ll tell a story about someone, will quickly jump to what that person ends up doing in the future, and then goes right back to where he was in the original story. This is a man who knew what he loved and who took chances, some that paid off and some that didn’t. And that’s one of the things that I found made this book different from a lot of other Hollywood-esque autobiographies—the author is able to admit both the things he did right and the things he didn’t. Despite his tremendous success in the business, there’s no over blown egos and no taking credit for everything that came his way. One great example—he decided to pass over Francis Ford Coppola for The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, thinking he wouldn’t be able to manage a mafia movie. He says, “I haven’t seen The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight since 1972, and I see The Godfather, directed by the man I couldn’t imagine directing a gangster film, every chance I get.” Though not perfectly written, this book is definitely worth the time of anyone who an interested in learning more about the Hollywood experiences of one of the most prolific producers/directors/writers of the last 50 years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I liked reading a behind the scenes book from the producer/ director’s viewpoint for a change. It seems most (not all) celebrity memoirs these days are basically the author complaining about how rough their lives have been. This book is essentially a love letter to Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese (nothing wrong with that!) that was in need of a good editor/ fact checker. While I found this book interesting and entertaining overall, I was left wanting so much more. Each chapter is broken down I liked reading a behind the scenes book from the producer/ director’s viewpoint for a change. It seems most (not all) celebrity memoirs these days are basically the author complaining about how rough their lives have been. This book is essentially a love letter to Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese (nothing wrong with that!) that was in need of a good editor/ fact checker. While I found this book interesting and entertaining overall, I was left wanting so much more. Each chapter is broken down into movies that Winkler worked on throughout his career. These sections essentially give a lengthy summary of the film and then a few making-of facts are thrown in. Some of these facts were simple things like this director didn’t get along with this actor, or this actor was very professional and was always on time. I wanted MORE! To me, this was a shell of a much bigger story. I would have preferred if he had selected a few of his films and gone into a lot more detail about his experience working on them, as opposed to cramming in everything he worked on with very limited tidbits. More often than not the facts given were very interesting and this is definitely a good read for movie lovers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cobb Sabatini

    I won an Uncorrected Proof of A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood by Irwin Winkler from Goodreads. Irwin Winkler shares with readers his fascinating journey through five decades of producing and directing films in his book, A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood. Readers are given an insider's view of the behind-the-scenes negotiations and other efforts to finance and launch a movie as Winkler describes his efforts step-by-step with each of his incredible films. The I won an Uncorrected Proof of A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood by Irwin Winkler from Goodreads. Irwin Winkler shares with readers his fascinating journey through five decades of producing and directing films in his book, A Life in Movies: Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood. Readers are given an insider's view of the behind-the-scenes negotiations and other efforts to finance and launch a movie as Winkler describes his efforts step-by-step with each of his incredible films. The narration is easy to follow and feels like a friendly conversation. Film buffs will enjoy not only the background information, but also the details concerning famous actors and directors as they consider movie scripts, and then reject or accept offers to create a film. Irwin Winkler's memories will certainly inspire readers to create their own must-see movies list.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    This is a readable and interesting memoir from one of the biggest producers in Hollywood. His career starts from the last gasps of the old studio system that dominated the first 60+ years of Hollywood, recounting personal meetings with such names as Jack Warner, and has ties all the way to the current day, where he is involved in the production of movies that are set to appear on streaming services (i.e. The Irishman on Netflix). The chapters are broken up by movies, with quick accounts that cov This is a readable and interesting memoir from one of the biggest producers in Hollywood. His career starts from the last gasps of the old studio system that dominated the first 60+ years of Hollywood, recounting personal meetings with such names as Jack Warner, and has ties all the way to the current day, where he is involved in the production of movies that are set to appear on streaming services (i.e. The Irishman on Netflix). The chapters are broken up by movies, with quick accounts that cover Winkler's role in each picture, from producing, casting and in some cases directing. It doesn't hurt that he has personal relationships with such luminaries like De Niro and Scorsese. Was fun to read that immediately after seeing the screening for Star Wars, he purchased stock in 20th Century Fox. Maybe not great literature, but for a film buff, worth a beach/summer read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This isn’t exactly a memoir, and anyone who’s hoping for the life story of legendary Hollywood producer Irwin Winkler will be disappointed to find just a few fleeting and sporadic personal anecdotes. It’s basically a catalog of films he’s worked on, late 60s to the present day, with behind the scenes stories for each. I was fascinated by the creative decisions Winkler expounded on, including comments about casting, writing, and music. A majority of these tales focus more on financing and busines This isn’t exactly a memoir, and anyone who’s hoping for the life story of legendary Hollywood producer Irwin Winkler will be disappointed to find just a few fleeting and sporadic personal anecdotes. It’s basically a catalog of films he’s worked on, late 60s to the present day, with behind the scenes stories for each. I was fascinated by the creative decisions Winkler expounded on, including comments about casting, writing, and music. A majority of these tales focus more on financing and business negotiations, which to me is far less interesting, though your mileage may vary. The book does offer a helpful overview of what producers actually do, and it paints a clear picture of how the film industry has evolved over the decades. I’ll conclude by noting what seem to be some significant typos and formatting issues here and there, which are annoying, but the book is still entertaining.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Law

    When you watch a movie, you can clearly see the effort that the actors and directors put into it. But what about the producer? Why is a producer and what does the producer actually do? This book is the perfect answer to it. This book are full of behind-the-scene stories from the big ole Hollywood. I see the struggles that producers go through just for producing one movie, from not being able to hire the ideal actor, to dealing with an irresponsible, amateur director. I especially like reading abo When you watch a movie, you can clearly see the effort that the actors and directors put into it. But what about the producer? Why is a producer and what does the producer actually do? This book is the perfect answer to it. This book are full of behind-the-scene stories from the big ole Hollywood. I see the struggles that producers go through just for producing one movie, from not being able to hire the ideal actor, to dealing with an irresponsible, amateur director. I especially like reading about all the "office drama" that Winkler had to go through. Hey, working in Hollywood isn't THAT much different from our ordinary office jobs!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    **1/2: if you love movies, you’ll probably want to read this as Winkler produced or directed many classics, from the late-60’s to present, including Point Blank, Rocky, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and more. Adapted from his diaries, and it shows. On passion projects like Rocky and Guilty By Suspicion, there is a level of detail that many other entries are lacking. The amount of rote, repetitive “I read the script, hired a director, struggled for budgeting, cast and recast, it premiered” formula wea **1/2: if you love movies, you’ll probably want to read this as Winkler produced or directed many classics, from the late-60’s to present, including Point Blank, Rocky, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and more. Adapted from his diaries, and it shows. On passion projects like Rocky and Guilty By Suspicion, there is a level of detail that many other entries are lacking. The amount of rote, repetitive “I read the script, hired a director, struggled for budgeting, cast and recast, it premiered” formula wears thin fast. I admire Winkler being frank about Hollywood without spilling too much tea.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This is a personal memoir of a man who was in the heart of the movie industry for many, many years. The book is chock full of behind-the-scene stories of some of Hollywood's greatest successes (and a few of its not so impressive moments). It is the story of a bold and charismatic man who seems real and interesting. I doubt we will see another with his long creative history. I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jean Railla

    A light, fun read about old school Hollywood producing by someone who seems like a good guy. I genuinely liked the author and enjoyed hearing about how he made his way from Coney Island to Beverly Hills. There is nothing too contrived, illicit or scandalous, which was refreshing. Would be a fun beach read for a film buff.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I won this book through a GoodReads Giveaway and wish that I could have got into it. I think it was more of a timing thing than a book thing. My mind was distracted with family issues and I really wasn't up to reading about behind the scenes Hollywood gossip at that point in time. Due to that reason I feel I am unable to write an honest review of this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

    I’m rounding up from 4.5 stars. I frankly liked this book more than I like most of his movies. A fast breezy memoir of a life in movies. Most importantly he seems like a genuinely nice guy.. a nice respite from the news. If you’re interested in movies give it a gander.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    If you are a movie fan, and puzzle about what a producer does, it’s a fun read. He can think quick on his feet; it’s no surprise that he was so successful. You walk away marveling that any movie ever gets made, and what a miracle a good movie is.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked it. Would have given four stars but author said Terms of Endearment was not a very good tearjerker. ( of course I love that movie and cry every time I see it) He was just pissed his movie didn’t win Best Picture and lost to Terms. Otherwise writing flowed pretty quickly

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    I really liked how the book was told chronologically by movie year so I could go along that 50 year journey because as I learned in the book some movies were decades in the making. I had never heard of Irwin Winkler before but learning about his work was very interesting as I have seen and enjoyed several of his movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Net. It was fun to read all the behind the scenes stories but I would have also liked to know more about Winkler personally.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry McCarty

    Compact overview of a career as producer/director which began in the twilight years of the studio system and continues in the age of Netflix.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A delight Insight and anecdotes from a remarkable career. A breezy read. Very candid. Winkler is kind of like a more accomplished Zelig.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zach Morgan

    Fascinating look into Irwin's work, tenacious energy, and brilliant art.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samiyah Swann

    A great Hollywood read. If you loved Goodfellas, Raging Bull or Rocky, read this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Started strong, got a little repetitive later

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Nice quick read about the author's experience producing many of the most popular movies of the last 50 years

  27. 4 out of 5

    Samelder9

    Come for the inside story on Scorsese's filmography, stay for the...well, little else really. Fluffy and charming, glosses over the flops he produced/especially directed. Rose-tinted Hollywood.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rory

    Some people are better at producing movies than writing about their experiences with them. Irwin Winkler is one.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kosarek

    The book just skims over the movies he in which he was involved, like he was telling stories at a party.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ozawa

    Lots of name-dropping, lots of humblebragging. Like Robert Evans’ memoir, but much less charming and funny. Has some amusing stories but nothing worth repeating at the water cooler. A quick peak into the art of moviemaking.

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