Alan Ladd Jr., 'Star Wars' and 'Braveheart' Producer, Dead at 84

Alan Ladd Jr., the beloved Hollywood executive who helped bring Star Wars to life and won an Oscar for producing Mel Gibson's Braveheart, has died. He was 84. Ladd's daughter, Amanda Ladd-Jones, announced his death on Wednesday.

"With the heaviest of hearts, we announce that on March 2, 2022, Alan Ladd, Jr. died peacefully at home surrounded by his family," Ladd-Jones wrote on the Facebook page for the documentary Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies. "Words cannot express how deeply he will be missed. His impact on films and filmmaking will live on in his absence."

Ladd was the son of screen icon Alan Ladd and his first wife, Marjorie Jane Harrold. After their divorce, Ladd lived with his mother. Shortly after returning to his father, Alan Ladd died in 1964 from an accidental overdose of sedatives and alcohol. Ladd was 26 at the time. In the late 1950s, Ladd entered the film business as a stuntman on his father's films. In the early 1960s, he was a talent agent, representing stars like Judy Garland, Robert Redford, and Warren Beatty notes The Hollywood Reporter. He moved to London to become an independent producer.

A job at 20th Century Fox brought him back to Los Angeles in 1973. The studio hired him as head of creative affairs. His most famous decision was pushing the studio to make George Lucas' strange fantasy epic Star Wars. One of the sticking points between Lucas and Fox was his pay, as his agent asked for a big raise after American Graffiti became a hit for Universal. Lucas came up with the idea of taking sequel rights instead and then got the merchandising rights. Ladd agreed since film merchandising wasn't the cash cow it is today.

Star Wars went on to become one of the most profitable films ever made and spawned a franchise that continues to this day. However, it was only one of the great movies Fox produced during Ladd's tenure. Other movies produced there in the late 1970s include 3 Women, Julia, High Anxiety, The Turning Point, The Fury, Norma Rae, and Ridley Scott's Alien.

Ladd's career took another turn in 1979 when he quit Fox and established The Ladd Co., which was based at Warner Bros. During a brief period in the early 1980s, Ladd's company churned out several acclaimed films, including The Right Stuff and Scott's Blade Runner and had the domestic distribution rights to Chariots of Fire. The company closed in 1983, so Ladd joined MGM/United Artists.

In the early 1990s, Ladd found himself at Pathe Entertainment. When Pathe bought MGM/UA in 1991, he was back at MGM. That relationship ended poorly when he threatened to file a breach-of-contract lawsuit. Instead, MGM let him walk away with two projects, one of which was Braveheart. He took the film to Paramount and the movie won five Oscars, including Best Picture.
After Braveheart, Ladd was involved with The Phantom, A Very Brady Sequel, and The Man in The Iron Mask. His last two projects were An Unfinished Life starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.

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Ladd is survived by his second wife, Cindra, whom he married in 1985, his daughters Kelliann, Tracy, and Amanda, and brother David. His daughter Chelsea died in March 2021 at 34.