Ezra N. Swerdlow, a New York producer whose credits included Stardust Memories, Arthur, The King of Comedy, Wag the Dog and Spaceballs, has died. He was 64. He passed January 23 in Boston from complications from pancreatic cancer and ALS.
Swerdlow was known as a fair, compassionate and talented producer who put the film first and looked out for both the filmmaker and the crew. He grew up in Great Neck, Long Island. He studied political theory at Rutgers and seemed on a trajectory to become a historian, following the path of his mother, Amy, who was the head of Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College.
But in 1979, a summer job altered the course of Swerdlow’s life. He was hired by a friend as a location scout on the Woody Allen film Stardust Memories, and he never looked back. Swerdlow went from scout to location manager to UPM to producer, amassing more than 30 producing credits.
Although he briefly moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s, where he worked with Mel Brooks on Spaceballs, Swerdlow was a New York production guy through and through, coming up at the tail end of the golden age of 1970s New York filmmaking.
His earliest credits were Stardust Memories, Arthur and The King of Comedy. Swerdlow was at the center of all aspects of New York film production. His career ultimately spanned nearly four decades and included movies such as Spaceballs, Hannah and her Sisters, Waiting to Exhale, Wag the Dog, Enchanted, Zombieland, 21 Jump Street, and The Wqualizer.
In 2011 Swerdlow was nominated for an Emmy for producing the HBO movie Too Big to Fail.
He is survived by his wife, Lindsey; his son, Nick; daughter-in-law Caroline; sisters Joan and Lisa; brother-in-law Rob; his brother, Tommy; and many nieces and nephews.