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Fred Roos, responsible for careers of Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Rob Lowe, more dies aged 89 — his legacy explored as A-listers pay tribute

His final film was Francis Ford Coppola's Megalopolis, which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival

Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
May 21, 2024
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Fred Roos, a legendary Hollywood producer and casting director who kickstarted the careers of many Hollywood heavyweights and has an Oscar to his name, has passed away.

His publicist confirmed that he died at his home on Saturday at the age of 89, just days after his final production, Francis Ford Coppola's Megalopolis, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Over his extensive tenure in the industry, the producer worked closely with Coppola, producing the entirety of the beloved trilogy The Godfather, winning an Oscar for Best Picture for the second installment.

As a producer, he had a say on casting for several of Hollywood's best remembered films and franchises, most notably the Godfather and the Star Wars franchise.

Roos was the person responsible for famously pushing George Lucas to cast Harrison Ford, who he'd befriended earlier, for his films American Graffiti and ultimately as Han Solo, skyrocketing his profile.

He also recommended that Lucas cast Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in the franchise when he'd been leaning toward Amy Irving, although he didn't hold an official position with the Star Wars films.

Fred Roos arrives at the Premiere of Lionsgate's "Apocalypse Now Final Cut" the at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on August 12, 2019 in Hollywood, California.© Getty Images
Fred Roos has passed away at the age of 89

Roos also produced and cast for 1983's The Outsiders, which sparked the careers of Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe. He was also responsible for casting Jack Nicholson in some of his earliest acting roles before nabbing him his first Oscar nod for 1970's Five Easy Pieces. He'd also heavily campaigned for the casting of Al Pacino in The Godfather.

His very last project was Megalopolis, Coppola's long-awaited epic which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, although Roos himself didn't attend.

EXCLUSIVE: Megalopolis star Nathalie Emmanual on controversial movie as reactions pour in

His career began as a casting director for The Andy Griffith Show in the '60s before moving to Hollywood. Five Easy Pieces was his first film in which received casting credit, with his first producer credit coming in 1974 with Coppola's The Conversation.

Fred Roos, Harrison Ford, and Joan Allen during 31st Telluride Film Festival - A Tribute to Fred Roos at Galaxy Theater in Telluride, California, United States.© Getty Images
Harrison Ford was one of the major stars who he'd advocated for in the movie industry

Rob Lowe took to social media to pay tribute to the late Hollywood titan, writing on Instagram: "Saddened to hear of the passing of Fred Roos. Every movie lover should know his name." 

MORE: Rob Lowe reveals why Tom Cruise was so intense to work and compete with

"He was a casting genius and responsible for the careers of: Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Cruise, and the rest of The Outsiders cast (including me), and many others. Thank you, Fred and godspeed."

Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Thomas C. Howell, and Tom Cruise on the set of The Outsiders© Getty Images
1983's "The Outsiders" was another film that helped launch several major careers

Coppola, his longtime collaborator and close friend, also took to Instagram with a loving tribute and collection of photos, writing: "Fred Roos possessed a casting instinct that was near infallible: so beautifully demonstrated in AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THE OUTSIDERS." 

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"He was a great lifelong friend and collaborator with above all a true love for movies. I remember once telling him that we needed to find more women directors but that we should look for them among kids playing with 8mm movie-making equipment rather than dolls — and he came up with kids named Martha Coolidge and Susan Seidelman." 

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He concluded: "He was a unique talent and will certainly be missed."

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