Producer John Daly stood behind many big and medium-budgeted independent films of the '80s and '90s and sustained a reputation as a successful risk-taker in a traditionally conservative Hollywood. Though considered a maverick by many moguls given his willingness to back films that the big studios wouldn't touch, Daly remained a savvy businessman with a sharp eye for moneymakers. Born in London in 1936, as the son of a cockney dockworker. Daly got his start working as a teaboy and later as a waiter in the Merchant Navy and as an insurance salesman. He met David Hemmings and the two founded the Hemdale Company in 1966, as a talent agency that repped bands including Black Sabbath and Yes. Daly's career focus shifted somewhat in 1971, however, when he purchased Hemmings's share of the business and used it to form his own production company, Hemdale Group Ltd; under Daly's aegis, it blossomed into one of the leading "indie" production and distribution houses in the UK. He demonstrated an astonishing, almost visionary skill as a moviemaker, and unveiled a predilection for standing behind directors in whom he believed - including Robert Altman (with the 1972 Images), Ken Russell (with the 1975 Tommy), Bernardo Bertolucci (with the 1987 Best Picture winner The Last Emperor) , James Cameron (with the 1984 Terminator),
and Oliver Stone (with the twin 1986 releases Salvador and Platoon, the latter also a Best Picture winner). The company occasionally issued excellent films that turned into box-office disappointments as well (witness the 1981 Cattle Annie and Little Britches), but these marked exceptions and not the rule; at the time of Daly's death, the press marked that he had overseen the production of more than 100 titles at Hemdale, grossing in excess of $1.5 billion - a whopping sum for an independent production house.
From the late 1980s into mid-1990s, Hemdale's output remained prolific, though in 1995 Orion purchased the studio (by then renamed Hemdale Communications) and its assets. Daly's filmmaking efforts continued, but witnessed him branching out into scriptwriting and directing in addition to producing; he held down all three roles on the romantic adventure/political drama The Petersburg-Cannes Express (2003) and the period psychological drama The Aryan Couple (2004), the latter starring Martin Landau. Couple - the tale of Jewish husband and wife servants posing as Aryans during the Nazi regime, who conceive of a plan to extinguish Eichmann and Himmler - received mediocre stateside reviews but did pick up a number of international festival awards. Sadly, this marked one of Daly's last major efforts and he died of cancer at age 71 in October of 2008.