Larry Brezner, a very well-known manager-producer who was one of the principals of Brezner Steinberg Partners, died Monday night of complications from leukemia. He was 73. Brezner was diagnosed with the disease months ago and was undergoing treatment when he passed.
Brezner, always affable, was a kind-hearted man who was involved in the careers of Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Martin Short and Bette Midler. He helped put together the 1986 fundraiser Comic Relief, which Crystal, Williams and Whoopi Goldberg hosted to benefit the homeless. He also represented Omar Benson Miller and Sean Kelly.
“Larry Brezner and I produced and managed together for close to 40 years,” said his business partner David Steinberg. “With all the funny people we managed, Larry was the funniest person I ever knew.” He was also one of the most empathetic and helped others all the time behind the scenes without fanfare.
Over his long career, Brezner was involved in putting together about 20 films. Some of the most notable were the Dudley Moore breakthrough comedy hit Arthur, the dark comedy Throw Momma From the Train, starring Crystal and Danny DeVito; Good Morning, Vietnam, the film that launched Robin Williams’ feature career and earned him his first Oscar nom — that began as a two-page treatment before Brezner helped to set the project up at Disney; The Burbs for Universal, which starred a young Tom Hanks; and Coupe de Ville which began his lifelong friendship with Joe Roth.
“Larry was, first of all, a great guy,” said Roth. “I really appreciated his friendship and he really supported me when I was an executive at Fox. I did a lot of movies with Billy and Robin, and he was there every step of the way. You know, he had a rough edge to him and that was his way of hopelessly trying to hide his soft heart. He used to say, ‘You gotta know funny. Either you’re funny or not funny.’ I’m very sorry this happened.”
He had a good eye for story development and projects that would translate well into film. Brezner also is credited as a producer on the 2014 box office hit Ride Along. One of the movies he was most proud of producing was The Greatest Game Ever Played, directed by Bill Paxton. The film was not a comedy (which is what Brezner was known for), rather it was a poignant story about a young man named Francis Ouimet (Shia LeBeouf), an immigrant who did not come from wealth but struggled and persevered to become the first amateur to win the U.S. Open in 1913. One of the other favorites of his career was the 1994 comedy Clifford, which starred his friend Marty Short along with Mary Steenburgen and Charles Grodin.
Short said Brezner was “a deeply lovely man who made me laugh every time I was lucky enough to be around him.”
Brezner was born in the Bronx. He graduated from Bridgeport University, then attended graduate school at St. John’s University and received a degree in psychology and then a master’s from John Hopkins University. But he started out as a teacher at an elementary school.
He is survived by his wife, Dominique Cohen-Brezner, and his daughters Lauren Azbill and China Brezner and his brother Jeff Brezner (husband of Sandi). A private service will be held in the next two days, with a memorial service to follow later this fall. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent in Larry’s name to the City of Hope for hematological research (here).