May 5, 2013

Hollywood film producer credits UMaine

Lessons well-taught – and learned – in Orono helped Lawrence Bender find success.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Lawrence Bender went to the University of Maine because he liked its civil engineering program.

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Lawrence Bender has producing credits on the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” (with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson).

Miramax Films

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Lawrence Bender

Courtesy photo

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While there in the 1970s, he fell in love with dance and became a dancer. But he got his engineering degree too.

Looking back now, Bender says his UMaine experiences -- civil engineering training combined with the discipline and artistry needed for dance -- were the perfect preparation for what turned out to be his career: Hollywood film producer.

"When I started producing, I realized that all the training I had in college really prepared me," said Bender, 55, whose credits as producer include "Pulp Fiction," "Good Will Hunting" and "Inglourious Basterds." "When you produce, you have one foot in the practical world, the nuts and bolts of things, and that's where the engineering came in. But you also have one foot in the creative world, and that's the dance part.

"The University of Maine gave me everything I needed to do what I do. There's so much stuff out there, and when you're in college, you've got to grab it and absorb it."

Bender, who's based in Los Angeles, will return to his alma mater on Saturday to speak during graduation ceremonies. He'll address graduating students at both the 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ceremonies at Harold Alfond Sports Arena, located on the UMaine campus in Orono.

He'll also be getting an honorary doctorate of humane letters to go with the bachelor's in civil engineering he earned from the university in 1979.

Bender was chosen as commencement speaker and recipient of the honorary doctorate because he's "performing at the highest levels of his profession" and is "helping to change the world through his art and work," said Daniel Williams, planned giving officer with the University of Maine Foundation and one of the people who recommended Bender.

Williams met Bender when Bender came to Orono for an award in 2009 and was impressed with both Bender's accomplishments and his clear recollections of what his time at UMaine had meant to him.

"I was really struck with his comments about how the university had impacted him, how he was taught to solve problems through civil engineering courses, but he found his artistic side here too," said Williams. "I really thought future graduates should hear his story."

A PRACTICAL YOUNG MAN

Bender was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey, where his father was a college history professor and his mother was a kindergarten teacher. In high school, he decided to pursue the very practical career of a civil engineer for very practical reasons -- he was good in science and math, his grandfather had been a civil engineer, and he heard there were good jobs available in the field.

So he picked the University of Maine mostly because of its civil engineering program. He had no family in Maine, and hadn't come here to camp or vacation. But he did like the idea that he'd be able to ski nearby in the winters.

While at Orono, Bender still wasn't completely sure what he wanted to do with his life, and he says he was definitely in a period of "self-exploration." A girl he was dating asked him to take a dance class, and he loved it.

Later, a dancer named Arthur Hall came to Orono to teach workshops. Bender became inspired, and took up dance with a passion. He studied dance and worked as a dancer while also finishing his civil engineering degree.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Bender has producing credits on the Quentin Tarantino film “Inglourious Basterds” (with Eli Roth and Brad Pitt).

The Weinstein Co.

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Bender has producing credits on “Good Will Hunting” (with Matt Damon and Robin Williams).

Miramax Films

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“Reservoir Dogs,” starring Harvey Keitel, center, launched the careers and frequent partnership of director Quentin Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender.

Miramax Films

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