May 25, 2005 by

Ismail Merchant

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Categories: Hollywood

imerchant.jpgIsmail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman Merchant, a Hollywood producer and director whose period films won six Academy Awards, died on May 25. Cause of death was not released. He was 68.
Born in Bombay, India, Merchant moved to the United States in 1958 and became a messenger for the United Nations. After earning a master’s degree in business administration at New York University, he directed and co-produced the 14-minute short, “The Creation of Woman.” The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1961 and accepted into the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, Merchant met American painter/filmmaker James Ivory. A romantic and professional relationship quickly blossomed, one that led to the formation of Merchant Ivory Productions.
Their collaboration began with the feature length film, “The Householder,” which was based on a novel and screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Over the next four decades, they made more than 40 movies, including “A Room With a View,” “The Remains of the Day,” “Howards End,” “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” and “Jefferson in Paris.” Merchant usually worked as a producer while Ivory directed, however, it was not uncommon for them to switch duties. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, theirs is the longest partnership in independent cinema.
In recent years, Merchant and Ivory departed from the costume dramas that made them famous and began developing more contemporary pictures. They produced the 2003 farce “Le Divorce,” starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts, and recently wrapped “The Goddess,” a musical about the Hindu goddess Shakti starring Tina Turner. Their final period piece, “The White Countess,” which stars Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson, is currently in production.
Merchant also had a passion for fine cuisine. An accomplished chef, he opened a restaurant in 1993 and wrote several cookbooks (“Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters,” “Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine,” “Ismail Merchant’s Florence: Filming and Feasting in Tuscany,” “Ismail Merchant’s Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters” and “Ismail Merchant’s Paris: Filming and Feasting in France With 40 Recipes”). His autobiography, “My Passage From India: A Filmmaker’s Journey From Bombay to Hollywood,” was published in 2002.
Listen to an Interview With NPR

2 Responses to Ismail Merchant

  1. James

    Their best film was Maurice, a film that is a must-see for any homosexual, or anyone who wants to understand the self-hatred many gays go through.

  2. SOFIYA

    I WAS GOING SEARCHING SOME NEWS ABOUT
    RALPH FIENNES-AND IT’S SMTH ABOUT PRIDUCER…
    AND I LISTEN THE INTERVIEW ON NPR
    WITH ISMAIL MERCHANT AND I WAS CRYING-
    BECAUSE I FELT I KNOW HIM, HIS WARM VOICE,
    I FELT HIS SOUL AND THE STORY OF A BOY
    FROM INDIA WHO MADE HIS WAY TO THE BEST MOVIES OF
    OUR TIME…
    JUST THINK WHO WOULD COOK MEAL FOR PEOPLE ON THE SET?
    WE HAVE PLENTY OF TALENTED PEOPLE,
    BUT THERE ARE JUST A FEW WITH SUCH A BIG HEART
    LIKE I.MERCHANT… (SORRY FOR MY ENGLISH)
    WITH MY CONDOLESCENCE,
    SOFIYA

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