Al Ruddy Dies: Oscar-Winning ‘The Godfather’ & ‘Million Dollar Baby’ Producer Was 94

Albert S. Ruddy, who earned two Best Picture Oscars for producing The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby and co-created TV shows including Walker, Texas Ranger and Hogan’s Heroes, died May 25 at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center after a brief illness, a family spokesman said. He was 94.

Ruddy is one of nine producers ever to earn two or more Best Picture Oscars, and has the distinction of winning them with the largest interval in between — 32 years.

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He recently was portrayed by Miles Teller in the Paramount+ miniseries The Offer, which chronicles Ruddy’s experience making the 1972 film that Coppola directed and adapted with Mario Puzo from the latter’s bestselling novel.

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“Al was truly one of the great Hollywood mavericks,” The Offer director Dexter Fletcher said in a statement. “One of the last Mohicans who created great movies which still influence and inspire to this day. From humble beginnings to the highest of Hollywood accolades. His was an incredible journey. Achieved through the sheer power of his determination, strong will, irrepressible energy and charm and a rarely matched love for the art of film.”

Teller said in a statement: “It was an honor and a privilege to portray Al in The Offer. Al lived a life most could only dream of and all would envy.”

Before his big-screen success, Ruddy co-created with Bernie Fein Hogan’s Heroes, the decidedly iconoclastic sitcom about life for Allied prisoners in a Nazi POW camp. Starring Bob Crane and a memorable supporting cast, it ran for six seasons and remained popular in syndication. Ruddy had been developing a Hogan’s Heroes sequel series just before the Covid pandemic.

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Ruddy’s first feature, Wild Seed, was directed by lifelong friend Brian G. Hutton. He then produced Little Fauss and Big Halsy, for which he showed up unannounced on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and convinced rising star Robert Redford to play the lead in his film.

It all led to his next project — the one that would change and define his career: The Godfather.

As the sole producer of the 1972 juggernaut, which regularly places high on lists of the greatest movies ever, Ruddy took home the Oscar for Best Picture at the 45th Academy Awards. Clint Eastwood presented him with the prize. Fast-forward 32 years, and Ruddy and Eastwood won Best Picture together for producing Million Dollar Baby, the 2004 film that also garnered acting Oscars for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman as well as a directing nod for Eastwood.

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Ruddy’s final big-screen producing credit was Eastwood’s 2021 western drama Cry Macho.

“He was a great friend of mine and I will deeply miss him,” Eastwood said in a statement Tuesday.

The Godfather was the sprawling epic tale of the Corleone crime family in New York. It starred Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton and others and led to the 1974 sequel The Godfather Part II. They remain the only film and sequel to win the Best Picture Academy Awards.

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Al Pacino reflected: “Al Ruddy was absolutely beautiful to me the whole time on The Godfather; even when they didn’t want me, he wanted me. He gave me the gift of encouragement when I needed it most and I’ll never forget it.”

Deadline’s Peter Bart, who was VP Production at Paramount Pictures during The Godfather era, said: “Al Ruddy has a contagious love of storytelling and filmmaking and brought great energy and good humor to his productions. Ruddy and his friend Clint Eastwood were a formidable team who spun great stories and memorable movies.”

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Ruddy enjoyed a close personal and professional friendship with Burt Reynolds, with whom he made the Golden Globe Best Comedy-winning film The Longest Yard, as well as The Cannonball Run films, the latter of which were directed by fellow friend Hal Needham. Reynolds died in 2018.

Among the other films Ruddy wrote, co-wrote or got story-by credit are Matilda (1978), Megaforce (1982), Cannonball Run II (1984), Bad Girls (1994) — also a producer on those four — Adam Sandler’s The Longest Yard remake (2005) and Cloud 9 (2006). He also was a producer on such movies as Lassiter (1984), Farewell to the King (1989) Speed Zone (1989, as EP), Impulse (1990), Ladybugs (1992), The Scout (1994), Mean Machine (2001), Georgetown (2002) and Sabotage (2014).

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His TV credits include nearly 200 episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, starring Chuck Norris, which are from 1993-2001 on CBS. The CW’s just-wrapped Walker, starring Jared Padalecki, was based on the character from the earlier series.

Ruddy was born on March 28, 1930, in Montreal and raised in New York City. As a young man he excelled at swimming and was a near-miss for the Olympic swim team for the butterfly, his family said.

After attending Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s acclaimed schools for the gifted, he enrolled at the City College of New York and soon transferred to USC School of Architecture. Upon this cross-country move, Los Angeles would become Ruddy’s home for the rest of his life.

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Prior to his decorated writing and producing career, Ruddy worked as a programmer at the renowned technology think tank Rand Corporation in Santa Monica.

Among his other career accolades are two French César Awards, two Italian David di Donatello Awards, and the USC Scripter Award. He received the lifetime achievement award from the Shanghai Film Festival and was president of the jury at the Zurich Film Festival in 2007.

Ruddy was married for 43 years to his beloved wife, newspaper journalist-turned-Giorgio Armani fashion executive Wanda McDaniel, who is credited with pioneering the modern red carpet. Starting with The Offer, Ruddy began a collaboration with his cherished daughter and producing partner Alexandra Ruddy, who is the principal of Albert S. Ruddy Productions along with writing and acting.

Along with his wife, Al Ruddy is survived by his son, John; daughter, Alexandra; and son-in-law Abdullah Saeed, a screenwriter.

Amongst his last words: “The game is over, but we won the game.”

Respecting Ruddy’s wishes, no public funeral service will take place. Memorial services are pending.


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