Family & Companions
The ultimate impresario of a unique brand of glossy erotic fare, Zalman King started out as an actor, earning a Golden Globe nomination for his role on "The Young Lawyers" (ABC, 1970-71). His destiny lay behind the camera, however, and he produced and, with his wife, co-wrote "9½ Weeks" (1986). Directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, the film broke new ground for its art-directed erotic set-pieces, becoming a cult hit. Although critics found little to recommend about his psychosexual dreamscapes, King wrote, directed and produced provocative fare like "Two Moon Junction" (1988), "Wild Orchid" (1990) and "Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue" (1991) that became enduringly popular favorites with certain audiences. The keystone of his softcore empire, however, came with the immensely popular "Red Shoe Diaries" (Showtime, 1992-97). Loosely connected by a mysterious man (David Duchovny), the anthology series (and flurry of related projects) depicted King's favorite type of tale: various women transcending the mundane through their erotic awakenings. After a battle with cancer, he died on Feb. 3, 2012. Although mainstream critics found little to praise in his body of work, Zalman King was responsible for helping change audiences' perceptions of sexuality, art and film, redefining the line between artistry and erotica.
Born May 23, 1942 in Trenton, NJ, Zalman Lefkovitz started his entertainment career as an actor, booking guest spots on everything from "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (CBS, 1955-1960; 1962-64; NBC, 1960-62; 1964-65) to "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975) before landing a series regular role as attorney Aaron Silverman on "The Young Lawyers" (ABC, 1970-71). Although he earned a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe nod for his role, King would achieve his greatest fame behind the camera. Fascinated with blurring the line between sexuality and art, King and his wife, screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop, wrote the screenplay for "9½ Weeks" (1986), a dreamy, explicit meditation on the highly-charged sexual encounters between a mysterious man (Mickey Rourke) and a repressed woman (Kim Basinger). Directed by Adrian Lyne and produced by King, the film became a cult sensation with its stylish music video-inspired erotic sequences, and garnered considerable controversy on its way to becoming a touchstone of the genre.
The film would prove the turning point of King's career, and he would go on to spearhead his own unique brand of glossy, psychosexual projects that helped him build his own brand. He wrote and directed the similarly erotic "Two Moon Junction" (1988), the tale of a young Southern college grad who explores new sexual horizons with a handsome carnival worker. Again, few critics had much positive to say about the film, but it caught on with audiences who appreciated King's signature touch: titillation with at least the appearance of class. "Wild Orchid" (1990), his most commercially successful box office project, saw King once again co-writing alongside Knop as well as helming. The formula was familiar: a high-strung woman (Carré Otis) is drawn into a series of complicated psychosexual games with a tormented man (Mickey Rourke), but unlike in "9½ Weeks," King allowed the two a happy ending and romantic fulfillment. Lambasted by critics and dogged by controversy over explicit scenes King eventually cut, the film connected with audiences, inspiring him to write and direct "Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue" (1991).
Arguably King's most enduring, successful and well-known project was his softcore erotic series "Red Shoe Diaries" (Showtime, 1992-97) which became a mini-empire, built on a seemingly never-ending string of related projects and videos. Held together by a framing device where a lonely man Jake Winters (David Duchovny), bereft over the suicide of his fiancée, received letters from various women explaining their own sexual awakenings, the series was classic King: artfully shot lovemaking against a dreamy, dark psychological backdrop. Having created and conquered his own Hollywood niche that, while receiving little respect from mainstream critics, was undeniably popular, King continued down the same professional path, wearing multiple hats on a string of steamy projects including "ChromiumBlue.com" (Showtime, 2002) and "Body Language" (Showtime, 2008-2010). His longtime friend, actor Charlie Sheen, was the first to announce that, on Feb. 3, 2012, Zalman King died after battling cancer. In his Facebook post, Sheen wrote, "the world lost a brilliant and noble soul today." Although his work certainly had its share of critics, Zalman King was always dedicated to bringing a highbrow artistic approach to even the most lowbrow of subjects.
By Jonathan Riggs
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Made onscreen acting debut on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (CBS, NBC) episode titled "Memo from Purgatory"; co-starred James Caan and Walter Koenig
Played various characters on the CBS Western "Gunsmoke"
Made feature acting debut opposite Charlotte Rampling in "The Ski Bum"
Cast as idealistic Boston law student Aaron Silverman on ABC drama "The Young Lawyers"
Played a narcoleptic biker gang member who terrorizes a group of teenagers in "Trip With The Teacher"
Starred in "Blue Sunshine" as a man wrongly accused of committing murders
Wrote and executive produced first film, "Roadie"
Collaborated with director Adrian Lyne in the erotic drama "Nine 1/2 Weeks," Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger; co-wrote screenplay with Sarah Kernochan and Patricia Louisanna Knop
Directorial debut, the drama "Wildfire"; also wrote screenplay
Helmed the erotic thriller "Two Moon Junction," starring Sherilyn Fenn; also featured final film performances from Burl Ives and Herve Villechaize, as well as the film debut of Milla Jovovich
Directed Rourke, Jacqueline Bisset and Carré Otis in "Wild Orchid"; also co-wrote with Patricia Louisiana Knop; film almost received an X-rating for graphic sex scene between real-life lovers Rourke and Otis
Wrote and directed the sequel "Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue"
Created the softcore series "Red Shoe Diaries" (Showtime), starring David Duchovny; also wrote, directed, and executive produced
Helmed the feature adaptation of "Delta of Venus," based on the erotic fiction by Anaïs Nin
Directed "In God's Hands," a drama about big wave surfers; also wrote and executive produced
Created the Showtime series "ChromiumBlue.com"
Directed the TV documentary "Barely Brooke" (E!) about actress and TV personality Brooke Burke Charvet
Helmed the feature documentary "Crazy Again" centered on Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee Dale Watson
Returned to feature acting opposite Dita Von Teese in "Saint Francis"
Executive produced the erotic drama series "Body Language" (Showtime), also directed