Peter S. Davis, the producer of the popular cult Highlander franchise, died in his sleep February 21 at home in Calabasas, CA, his son, Epic magazine co-founder Joshua Davis, told Deadline. He was 79.
Davis began his career as a Wall Street lawyer and launched his own firm in his 20s before heading to Hollywood in 1977. He produced more than 20 films during his career, including the early Brad Pitt starrer Cutting Class (1988), Joe Pesci’s Family Enforcer aka Death Collector (1976), and Sam Peckinpah’s last film The Osterman Weekend (1983). He worked with Bob Shaye and Bill Panzer to produce New Line Cinema’s first film, Stunts starring Robert Forster.
Above all, Davis is known for Highlander (1986), which began as an overlooked script written by UCLA undergrad Gregory Widen. Davis convinced Fox and Thorn/EMI to back the film in the early 1980s and recruited Sean Connery for the role of Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. Cristopher Lambert was set to play the lead before Davis discovered that Lambert couldn’t speak English fluently, which resulted in extensive re-recording in post. Nonetheless, Lambert transformed the role of Connor McLeod into a cinematic icon. The film became a hit in Europe and then found a rabid fanbase in the U.S. when it came out on VHS.
Highlander eventually grew into a franchise that now includes four feature films, more than 140 episodes of live-action television, an animated series, video games and a sword business. Queen contributed multiple songs to the unreleased original Highlander soundtrack, some of which — including the title single and “Princes of the Universe” — appeared on the group’s 1986 album A Kind of Magic.
Before his death, Davis had pressed studio executives to push forward a Chad Stahelski reboot of Highlander with Neal Moritiz at Lionsgate.
His son, Joshua, wrote that his dad “was a fixture of the independent film world, lunching at Le Dome or Ago in purple sunglasses and piloting a red convertible Maserati around town. In May, he decamped for the bar at the Majestic in Cannes, often trying to gin up foreign sales with posters for films that didn’t yet exist.
“For years, he lived on La Costa Beach in Malibu surrounded by dogs and fish tanks filled with moray eels and clown fish. He was an inveterate entrepreneur whose drive led him to start companies that ranged from an exotic car dealership on the Sunset Strip to an install-at-home pole dancing supply shop. He approached each endeavor with the same combination of intense focus, legal insight and unbuttoned paisley shirts.”
Along with his son, Davis is survived by his wife Katia Davis; his sister, Vida Barron, daughter Danielle Davis; and two grandchildren.