James D. Brubaker, who began his career as a driver on John Wayne movies and went on to producing films starring the likes of Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and Sylvester Stallone, died Tuesday morning after a series of strokes. The Beverly Hills resident was 85 years old.
Often called “Bru” by his colleagues and coworkers, he served in the Army and studied at Cal State L.A. before taking a job as a driver for MGM. Brubaker started out in the industry driving horses to John Wayne movie locations in Mexico as a Teamster and served as a driver for “Harold and Maude” and “Diamonds Are Forever.”
He was also a driver for the first “Rocky” movie in 1976 and was a production manager on “Rocky II” in 1979. He was an associate producer on “Rocky III” in 1982 and an executive producer of “Rocky IV” in 1985.
He had previously served as unit production manager on films including “Raging Bull,” “Comes a Horseman,” “New York, New York,” “Rhinestone,” “True Confessions,” “Patty Hearst,” “Godfather Part II” and “Staying Alive.” His final credit was as executive producer on Jon Favreau’s “Chef,” which was released theatrically in summer 2013.
The longtime producer amassed 28 producer credits, including Keanu Reeves’ “A Walk in the Clouds,” Kevin Costner’s “Dragonfly” and Angelina Jolie’s “Gia.” for Eddie Murphy — including “Life,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Klumps,” as well as both “Liar, Liar” and “Bruce Almighty” starring Jim Carrey.
Brubaker served as president of physical production at Universal Studios from 2003 to 2008.
He served on the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Directors Guild of America, and The Producers Guild of America. He also lectured at UCLA and USC film schools and provided training opportunities for disadvantaged youth on his film sets.
Brubaker is survived by his wife of 30 years, Marcy Kelly, three children: Marcei Brubaker Brown; Susan Brubaker Gublet; John Alden Brubaker; and five grandchildren.
His stepson Michael James Kelly predeceased him. Donations in his memory can be made to streetlights.org, a nonprofit that trains young people from diverse backgrounds for jobs in film production.