“He never stops” – the legendary life of Hollywood producer Robert Halmi
The Hungarian-born television producer has worked in the US since the 1950s and has received over a hundred Emmy Awards for his television productions. He was greatly invested in literary adaptations and bringing American movie projects to shoot in Hungary. He was 90 years old when he passed away in 2014.
Along with his son, Robert Halmi created over 200 television productions, including popular series in the nineties, such as Gulliver’s travels, the Odyssey, The Tales of the Arabian Nights and Dinotopia. He won the Emmy Award for the mini series Gulliver’s Travels in 1996. In 1998 he was awarded the Peabody Award for his work in television production.
He worked with Francis Ford Coppola several times, including The Odyssey and Moby Dick, as executive producer.
In 2008, the president of American Sci Fi Channel talked about the then 84-year-old filmmaker:
“He never stops. He’s been on his feet for seven or 24 hours. I don’t think he ever sleeps. The meaning of your life is reading books and thinking about what your next job should be. He always finds good books, comic books I’ve never even heard of. In his work, he is truly a guru, a devoted fan of the fantasy genre, and he tells great stories through them”.
Ex-photographer starting a new career at 46-years-old
Robert Halmi Sr. was born in Budapest in 1924. During the Second World War, he was released from the brink of death twice: first captured by the Nazis because he was working in the resistance, second by the Russians because he was spying for the United States.
Following his father, he began his career as a photographer. He emigrated to the United States in the early fifties, where he got a job at Life magazine: he worked as a journalist and photographer for ten years. He traveled and worked all around the globe, especially a lot in Africa. In 1970 he quit Time magazine, and started to produce television documentaries based on his experiences while traveling (beautiful landscapes, plant and animal protection, sports). He quickly switched to fiction, he made his first feature film in 1974: Visit to a Chief’s Son – an adaptation from his own novel with Richard Mulligan as leading actor.
He was a literature enthusiast, always looking for the next great novel to adapt. This is greatly linked to his upbringing – he went to a prestigious Hungarian high school in Sárospatak where he took high level Literature and English classes. He adapted and was nominated for a TV Oscar for the adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, for Moby Dick, for Merlin, for The Lion in Winter, and for the Oz remake Tin Man in 2008.
It was his idea to bring American movie projects to Hungary, instead of Luxembourg, England, Ireland or the Netherlands, which started a whole new era for Hungarian film production.
He founded Robert Halmi Entertainment Inc. in 1979 with his son, which thrived in the 80s and 90s. He liked to work with less-known actors, because he had an eye for casting: he discovered Julie Deply french actress among many others.
Before he passed away in 2014 he worked as an executive producer on a Greek mythological drama called Olympus.