How Did Bert Schneider and Steve Blauner Die?

In Apple TV+’s biographical series ‘The Big Cigar,’ Bert Schneider and Steve Blauner, two established Hollywood producers, help the Black Panther Party’s co-founder Huey P. Newton to flee to Cuba. As the show depicts, Schneider and Blauner were Hollywood figures who swam against the current. Schneider not only launched a new era in the industry with ‘Easy Rider’ but also made it clear that there was a place for dissent in the same. Both of them passed away in the 2010s, leaving behind an unignorable legacy of revolution within Hollywood!

Bert Schneider Passed Away of Natural Causes

Bert Schneider died of natural causes on December 12, 2011, at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. His daughter Audrey Simon told the press that he had been dealing with failing health. He is survived by Audrey and a son named Jeffrey, in addition to four grandchildren.

Image Credit: Oscars/YouTube

After trying to help Huey P. Newton disappear from the United States, Schneider caused a stir in Hollywood by reading a message from Viet Cong official Dinh Ba Thi while the conclusion of the Vietnam War was on the horizon after accepting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for ‘Hearts and Minds.’ His words were disavowed by Frank Sinatra, the ceremony’s co-host. After the controversial Oscar win, Schneider produced three more films: Henry Jaglom’s ‘Tracks,’ Terrence Malick’s legendary period drama ‘Days of Heaven,’ and the interracial romance ‘Broken English.’

By the end of the 1970s, Schneider had started to stay away from the mainstream. As the decade concluded, the anti-establishment sentiments he propagated through his life and films waned. It didn’t take long for the major studios to regain their outright authority in the industry, making Hollywood a not-so-ideal place for Schneider to thrive. According to his family, the producer also dealt with long-standing substance abuse. By the 1990s, Schneider was a “recluse,” according to former Los Angeles Times critic Patrick Goldstein.

“By the late ‘90s, he [Schneider] was a sad case. I’d see him at parties, toting a plastic baggie full of pharmaceuticals of all stripes and sizes, hanging out with women who weren’t even born when ‘Easy Rider’ was taking the town by storm,” Goldstein wrote in the Los Angeles Times, adding that the producer was “worthy of the throne.” During his later years, he was also estranged from his children, friends, and colleagues. “Drugs wasted him [Schneider], made him solitary. He withdrew from our thirty-year friendship about a decade ago, and unfortunately, I was one of too many to count,” Peter Davis, who directed the producer’s Academy Award-winning ‘Hearts and Minds,’ wrote in The Huffington Post/HuffPost.

Davis remembered his friend and colleague warmly after Schneider’s demise. “In a parallel universe, I like to think, Bert is resuming his decades-old argument with Dennis Hopper about film, politics, and the most blissful way to achieve enlightenment. In our own orbit, though, Bert’s absence makes the world just a little less interesting,” the filmmaker added.

Steve Blauner Died at the Age of 81

On the other hand, Steve Blauner died on June 16, 2015, at the age of 81, while dealing with the complications of a broken hip. He is survived by his daughters, Grace Brown and Moon Blauner, a former assistant to Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt.

Blauner helped Huey P. Newton hide from the authorities while his career as a producer was reaching new heights. BBS Productions, the production company operated by Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Blauner, had been making highly acclaimed features and documentaries in the 1970s. After serving as a manager of the renowned musician Bobby Darin until 1965, Blauner started to manage the former’s estate after he died in 1973. He served as one of the producers of the iconic stand-up comedy film ‘Richard Pryor: Live in Concert,’ released in 1979.

Image Credit: The Criterion Collection

Blauner returned to the realm of television in 1987 with ‘The New Monkees,’ a syndicated show featuring the pop-rock music group of the same name. The series ran for thirteen episodes between September and December of the year. He also worked as a consultant for Kevin Spacey’s biographical film ‘Beyond the Sea,’ in which John Goodman plays him. Since then, Blauner had largely stayed away from the spotlight.

“Steve was the most beloved of three partners; he was the one that talent could go and confide in, and in every sense of the word, he was simply the most beloved person I ever knew in show business,” Blauner’s former business partner and colleague Rafelson said about him, as per Variety.

Read More: Where and When Does The Big Cigar Take Place?