Albert Brenner, a production designer and/or art director on such films as Bullitt, The Turning Point, Pretty Woman and Backdraft who racked up five career Oscar nominations, has died. He was 96. The Mirisch Agency told Deadline he died December 8 in his sleep.
A 2003 recipient of the Art Directors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Brenner scored Best Art Direction/Set Decoration Academy Award nominations for Beaches (1988), 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), California Suite (1978), The Turning Point (1977) and The Sunshine Boys (1975).
Born on February 17, 1926, in New York City, Brenner served in the Air Force during World War II. His training later at the Yale School of Drama proved invaluable when he began working as a production designer and/or art director — first in commercials and then live TV. He moved his family to Los Angeles during the 1960s and began working on feature films, with early credits including 1969’s Where It’s At and Some Kind of a Nut.
He served as art director on the 1968 Steve McQueen car-chase classic Bullitt and later served in that gig for films including The Other, Trouble Man, The Bank Shot and John Frankenheimer’s I Walk the Line, starring Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld.
Brenner handled PD duties for pics including Summer of ’42 (1971) and The Master Gunfighter (1975) before being hired to The Sunshine Boys, the 1975 romp starring Walter Matthau, George Burns and Richard Benjamin. That marked the first of several films based on Neil Simon plays on which Brenner was production designer, a list that later included The Goodbye Girl (1977), Only When I Laugh (1981), I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982), Max Dugan Returns (1983) and California Suite.
He also served as PD on such popular films as The Missouri Breaks, the lone pairing of Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson; Silent Movie, written and directed by its star, Mel Brooks; Best Picture Oscar nominee The Turning Point, starring Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine; Capricorn One with Elliott Gould, James Brolin and others; Michael Crichton’s Coma, starring Michael Douglas; Ron Howard’s firefighter pic Backdraft, with Kurt Russell, Robert De Niro and others; the Bill Crystal pic Mr. Saturday Night; and dozens more.
A favorite of the late Garry Marshall, Brenner worked on his Al Pacino-Michelle Pfeiffer starrer Frankie and Johnny, along with Beaches, Pretty Woman, Dear God, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and Valentine’s Day, which would be the PD’s final screen credit in 2010.
Brenner also served on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors and was the President of the Society of Art Directors.
He is survived by his wife, Susan; children David (Kathryn) Faye, Rachel and Mara; and six grandchildren. The family suggest donations be made in his name to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.