‘Romancing the Stone’ Actor Was 83

Zack Norman, the stand-up comic, actor and producer perhaps best known for his turn as a crocodile-loving antiquities smuggler in Romancing the Stone, has died. He was 83.

Norman died Sunday night of natural causes at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, his family announced.

Norman collaborated frequently with director Henry Jaglom, with the two working together on Tracks (1976), Sitting Ducks (1980), Venice/Venice (1992), Babyfever (1994), Déjà Vu (1997), Festival in Cannes (2001), Hollywood Dreams (2006), Irene in Time (2009), Queen of the Lot (2010), The M Word (2014) and Ovation (2015).

In Robert Zemeckis’ action-adventure Romancing the Stone (1984), starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, Norman and Danny DeVito play the smuggling cousins Ira and Ralph, respectively.

“Look at those snappers,” Ira says in admiration whenever he sees a croc.

(He and Douglas would get into a legal spat over a company that they co-founded.)

Norman also appeared on the big screen in James Toback’s Fingers (1978), Milos Forman’s Ragtime (1981), Robert Downey Sr.’s America (1986) and Roger Donaldson’s Cadillac Man (1990) and as a guest star on TV shows including The Flash, Baywatch, The A-Team and The Nanny.

Zack Norman (left) and Danny DeVito in 1984’s Romancing the Stone.

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection

Howard Jerrold Zuker was born in Boston on May 27, 1940, and raised in nearby Revere. He attended the Governor’s Academy and Vanderbilt University before receiving an executive MBA degree from Harvard Business School.

He started out as a stand-up comic, performing in Playboy clubs, at The Flamingo in Las Vegas and at the Copacabana in New York, and he made it onto The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1969.

Norman produced John Arden’s Live Like Pigs, a long-running drama that opened off-Broadway in 1965, and helped finance films including Peter Davis’ Hearts and Minds (1974), which won the Oscar for best documentary feature, and movies made in Italy.

In the presidential election year of 2016, Norman polished off Chief Zabu, a film he had directed, co-written and co-produced in 1986 about a real estate developer (played by Allen Garfield) with political ambitions. (He played a struggling comedian in the movie as well.)

“Though its mix of the loopy, the broad and the deadpan is uneven, its story of American business designs on a tiny Polynesian nation still has satirical bite,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden wrote in her review.

Norman also was an art collector who owned paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy; sister Jane; daughters Lori and Tracy; sons Stephen and Michael; and grandchildren Sascha, Addison, Benjamin, Henry, Liliana, Jonathan, Justin, Jayden, Jackie, Gabrielle, Rachel, Susie, Joseph and Seth.

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