Producer Robert Evans has a fast-talking tempo and a deep-pitched, vibrant voice that combine to convey an impressive sense of urgency and authority, even when he assumes the most relaxed conversational postures, reclining on a divan in his hotel suite or tucking elegantly shod, small feet beneath him to sit yoga-style.
Evans broke into the movies on the strength of smooth, boyish good looks. On a momentous day in 1956 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Norma Shearer noticed him and decided he should impersonate her late husband, Irving Thalberg, in Universal's film biography of Lon Chaney, "Man of a Thousand Faces." However, his show business career began in radio in his native New York when Evans was only 11 and went on to include such exotic, precocious assignments as a Havana disc jockey, broadcasting from the Copacabana, at the age of 18.
While Evans remains boyishly attractive despite the creases and wrinkles that come naturally at 47, it's the voice that expresses assurance and forcefulness. Evans doesn't look like a commanding figure, and he's prone to flash shy grins and make self-deprecating remarks that seem a little startling in view of his professional status.
Asked if he planned to marry television personality Phyllis George, Evans answered solemnly. "If she'll have me. There's nothing definite, but she's a terrifie girl, we've been going together and, yeah. I wouldn't be surprised. At least I hope so."
Evans speculated that a marital union with George might also bring him to Washington more often, at least during the football season. He encountered her while shooting the Super Bowl sequences for his latest production. "Black Sunday," at the Orange Bowl in January of 1976, during Super Bowl X itself.
He appeared at the American Film Institute Theater last night to host a special preview of "Black Sunday," a thriller about a terrorist plot to stage a massacre at the Super Bowl which is scheduled to open at six area theaters this Friday.
With three failed marriages - to actresses Sharon Huegeny, Camilla Sparv and Ali MacGraw - in his past one can appreciate Evan's present note of romantic modesty and caution. "It took me a whole year to get a date with Phyllis." Evans recalled in a tone of surprising resignation. He seems particularly haunted by his last divorce, which he considers a consequence of working patterns he still hasn't been able to alter.
"I'm convinced 'The Godfather' wrecked my marriage with Ali," Evans said. "There was so much riding on that picture and so much internal conflict and pressure that could have ruined it that I simply neglected everything else, including my personal life. I'd like to believe I've laerned better, but it's still a struggle to rearrange my priorities. Even when I was supervising production at Paramount, my tendency was to delegate administrative authority and get wrapped up in one or two key productions each year, like 'Love Story' and 'The Godfather.'
"Things haven't changed since I became a so-called independent producer, although what I am is actually a dependent producer who enjoys some equity in his own productions. Under the terms of my contract, I work exclusively for Paramount, but I now have more recognition an dshare in the profits m films earn.
"I've lived with 'Chinatown,' "Marathon Man' and now Black Sunday' from the very beginning. Maybe I can get away for a while after 'Black Sunday' opens. I'd like to take a three-week vacation, but I'm not sure my metabolism could stand it. Seriously. I've been that work-obsessed for so long. I'd like to do a little work on my backhand, which can always stand a lot of work. And Ali and I have a son, Joshua, who's enormously important to me. Last summer I was so wrapped up with both 'Marathon Man and 'Black Sunday' that I couldn't spend more than four consecutive days with him away from business.
"It's terribly difficult to reorder your priorities after so many years, and I'm not certain filmmaking would survive without people who became obsessed with the process. One of the things wrong with the business right now is that more people are invloved in making deals than making pictures. You can get rich just making deals, but that's bull - I'd rather be remembered that rich. But I also have a 6-year-old son whose needs can't be ignored. Ali warned me last summer not to let that relationship slip away, and she was absolutly right. I've got to find a way of balancing responsibilities and it's not easy. Believe me, I'm responsible for an awful lot of people."