How the Producer Behind ‘Died Hard,’ ‘The Matrix,’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ Created the Beloved Sport of Ultimate Frisbee

Joel Silver is a name that not many movie fans likely recognize — but he is a man who has been involved in some of the biggest film franchises of all time. Silver has become a legendary figure in Hollywood circles due to his eccentric, outlandish temper, and he has even been parodied in some notable movies.

Joel Silver speaks onstage during The 25th American Cinematheque Award Honoring Robert Downey Jr. held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on October 14, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.
Joel Silver | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Still, Silver’s biggest legacy is the movies that he has helped bring to life, movies like The Matrix, that have shaped many pop culture fans’ perception of what action movies should be. In addition to Silver’s work in the entertainment industry, he had a hand in developing a sport that not many people would associate with a major Hollywood executive. 

How did Joel Silver become a high-powered Hollywood producer?

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Silver was born in New Jersey in 1952. Raised by a writer and a public relations executive, Silver became interested in the entertainment industry from a very early age, going on to attend Lawrence Gordon Productions.

The bright, ambitious Silver quickly climbed the ladder of success, and after a few years, Silver became the president of motion pictures for the company. By the late ’70s, Silver started to have his name attached to big-name projects.

In 1985, Silver launched his own production company, Silver Productions. Through Silver Productions, he helped produce several major movies, including the Lethal Weapon franchise and the first two Die Hard films. By the end of the ’80s, Silver had become one of Hollywood’s biggest names, a man who had the ability to take any project and turn it into gold. 

Joel Silver has been involved in multiple big movie franchises

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Silver remained a power player as the ’90s progressed, producing the blockbuster Matrix franchise. In recent years, Silver has managed to maintain his momentum, with his name attached to major movies such as The Book of Eli, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Nice Guys, Collide, and Superfly.

While Silver has preferred to stay focused on film production, he has also dabbled in acting, lending his talents to the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Osmosis Jones.

Silver has become known in the movie industry for his flamboyant personality, his habit of wearing sports shirts, and speaking loudly and with purpose. Because of his outgoing attitude and intense manner of approaching people, Silver has occasionally rubbed people the wrong way — but through it all, he has remained dedicated to his craft, and is often credited with helping to reinvent the action genre

What unique sport did Joel Silver help to develop before entering Hollywood?

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Long before Silver started producing movies, he was participating in an educational enrichment program at the Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts. Reportedly, it was there that Silver was first introduced to a new way of playing Frisbee, a sport that combined football with the classic game of Frisbee.

When Silver returned to Columbia High School, he began teaching his classmates and peers the game, eventually managing to get a resolution passed that officially introduced the sport into the curriculum. Silver, along with two of his classmates, launched the “Columbia High School Varsity Frisbee Squad.”

The game that became known as Ultimate Frisbee was born, and quickly took off with Silver’s fellow students — and eventually, to fans all around the world. To this day, fans still participate in Ultimate Frisbee, and it is even included in the International World Games.

Silver, along with the two other founding members of the squad, was inducted into the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. Sadly, the story didn’t have a good ending for co-founder Buzzy Hellring – he passed away in 1971 following a tragic car accident.