In 1977 he established the British firm Goldcrest Films in partnership with David Puttman, and the two are credited with reviving British cinema in the 1980s with a string of Oscar-winning movies, including back-to-back best pictures: Chariots of Fire and Gandhi. Eberts wrote in My Indecision Is Final, his autobiographical study of the film business, "I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was living in London and there was an explosion of talent taking place there. It was just a stroke of good fortune for me."
He left Goldcrest in the 1984 and formed Allied Filmmakers, earning another two back-to-back best picture Oscars with Driving Miss Daisy and Dances with Wolves. In 1991, he won a Genie Award for best picture and the Golden Reel Award for the historical drama Black Robe, a Canada/Australia co-production. He also produced Grey Owl, a Canada/UK co-production that costarred Pierce Brosnan and Annie Galipeau, and the Oscar-nominated documentary Prisoner of Paradise.
Eberts was known for his financing savvy and personal approach to moviemaking, backing projects that appealed to him on a deep emotional level and presenting compelling stories without gratuitous sex, car chases and violence. He produced and financed more than 50 that won 37 Oscars® and garnered 66 nominations. The impressive list includes The Killing Fields, The Dresser, The River Runs through It, James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run and Local Hero. In 2006, March of the Penguins won the Oscar for best documentary.
Northernstars.ca's Québec Contributing Editor, Maurie Alioff said that "Through the choices he made, he stood up for a certain kind of taste and intelligence in film production." A comment echoed by many others. "He was an extraordinary film producer and an extraordinary man," Montreal director Denys Arcand, a close friend of Eberts, told The Gazette. "He took filmmaking seriously. He felt cinema should be used to better mankind. This is a lofty standard in an age where movies are being adapted from comic books. He had such noble ideals and morals."
"He was such a smart and eloquent man," added producer Denise Robert, Arcand’s wife and film collaborator, "yet he was also such a humble man and such a generous man – he gave to so many causes." PostMedia noted that the soft-spoken Eberts "was a gentleman in every sense." Unlike his contemporary, the flamboyant Harvey Weinstein, he was uncomfortable in the spotlight, he preferred to let his work speak for itself instead and, when not on the production trail around the globe, split his time between Montreal and Paris. Recently, he served as chairman of National Geographic Films. He had been turning his attention to documentaries of late because of what he sensed was a shifting in attitudes by moviegoers toward that genre. He was also developing a $60-million film project in China.
In 1992, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was also awarded honorary doctorates by McGill University in 1998 and by Bishop’s University in 1999. He served on the Board of the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Channel. He was also co-founder and CEO of MPI International, which provides high-speed, two-way video transmission capabilities to companies, hotels, hospitals and schools. He was diagnosed in late 2010 with uveal melanoma, a rare cancer of the eye, which recently spread to his liver. He is survived by his wife Fiona, two sons and a daughter.
Also see: Jake Eberts' filmography.