Michael G. Nathanson started his career at NBC Sports in New York City. He moved to Los Angeles in 1977 to work in films.
He was a production assistant on the 1977 films "The Deep" and "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger" (both 1977). After stints as a vice-president of production at MBM/UA, Sherwood Productions and Warner Bros., he became president of the motion picture division of Gladden Entertainment Corporation.
He was mentored by David Begelman, Guy McElwaine, David Puttnam and Dawn Steel.
In 1987, Nathanson executive vice president of production at Columbia. He oversaw such films as "Awakenings" (1990), "The Prince of Tides" (1991), "Boyz N the Hood" (1991), "A River Runs Through It" (1992), "A League of Their Own" (1992), "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) and "Groundhog Day" (1993).
"Nathanson is the type of guy who changes his wardrobe depending on who he's working for," an executive at Columbia told the authors of the 1997 book Hit & Run. "He wore a lot of Armani when Dawn was around."
Jon Peters gave him a brutal hazing. "He dressed him down in meetings, once pouncing on him in front of a roomful of other executives and tightening his necktie until Nathanson turned red. He phoned him in the middle of the night with abusive tirades." (Hit & Run, pg. 261)
Nathanson handled his problems by becoming a walking Physicians' Desk Reference. (pg. 262)
LA madam Heidi Fleiss was arrested June 9, 1993, and rumors swirled linking Fleiss's operation to Nathanson and Columbia.
At the end of the summer of 1993, a nervous Michael Nathanson had his bulldog attorney Bert Fields send two letters to freelance journalist Jeff Wells threatening legal action if Columbia Pictures or Nathanson's name were linked to a prostitution or drug scandal.
Peter Guber, Mark Canton and Michael Nathanson all liked to project the image of solid family man.
Nathanson earned about one million dollars a year from Columbia with bonuses. After his wedding in 1990, he and his wife moved into the Beverly Hills Hotel while their home in Beverly Hills was remodeled.
Nathanson had been a close friend of Ivan Nagy (Fleiss's former lover) for ten years. They played tennis, sailed and partied together. Nagy was a Hungarian-born film director and convicted bookmaker.
A source told Hit & Run about an outing on Nagy's sailboat in the mid-eighties. Nathanson, Nagy, young producer Brad Wyman were joined by topless women in the employ of Madam Alex. (pg. 392)
A loud mouthed profane man, Nagy directed episodes of Starsky and Hutch and The Hitchhiker as well as nine TV movies. When his Hollywood career tanked, he went to work for Madam Alex, helping her manage her business. Nagy had many friends in Hollywood, including former Tristar head Jeff Sagansky. Nagy surrounded himself with pretty girl and drugs.
Nagy was arrested in May, 1991 on six felony counts of bookmaming, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, and cultivation of marijuana. He was only convicted of bookmaking and placed on probation. (pg. 392)
Nagy and Fleiss were regular guests at Nathanson's home for holiday parties. "Nagy is a pig - horrible," one source told Hit & Run. "I would see him at Michael's house for football games. Heidi and Nagy would be there amidst all these executive types."
It was assumed that Nagy took care of Michael's needs for drugs and hookers. Copies of Michael's bank records show he wrote several personal checks to Nagy: one for $750 on February 23, 1989, and one for $500 on October 24, 1990.
In mid-1992, Nathanson went into drug rehab at the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina Del Rey.
In June of 1992, Fleiss told Premiere magazine's John H. Richardson that Nagy supplied Nathanson with women and drugs such as Percodan. "Sometimes he was even begging Ivan, Nathanson wanted it so much," she said. Fleiss said Nathanson had given Nagy a $25,000 development deal with Columbia.
Nathanson denied this. He'd made a deal in 1992 with Brad Wyman, who was a partner in Nagy-Wyman Productions located in a Sony office. Nagy's name, phone nubmer and office address appeared in the Columbia studio directory. (Hit & Run, pg. 393-394)
In late 1993, Nathanson became chairman and CEO of Arnon Milchan's New Regency Productions. He looked after such films as "Natural Born Killers" (1994), "Heat" (1995), "Tin Cup" (1996), "A Time to Kill" (1996) and the last two installments of the "Free Willy" franchise.
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