Former AMPAS exec director dies

James M. Roberts led org for 18 years

James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87.

The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but after exec director Margaret Herrick retired in 1971 and her successor suffered a stroke that same year, Roberts was upped to the top staff position.

Roberts won the respect of the governors of the Academy and of its staff, which more than tripled during his long tenure. He oversaw the move of the Acad’s HQ from a small Melrose Avenue building to its current Beverly Hills site. The late stages of his term saw the conversion of the former Beverly Hills “Waterworks” building into the home of the Academy’s Herrick Library.

Current Academy exec director Bruce Davis described Roberts as “a man with such a light touch on the reins that many people didn’t notice how much directing was going on, or how deft it was. He was an enormous asset to the organization, and — not incidentally — a gentleman in the highest sense of the word.”

Roberts is survived by a daughter and granddaughter.

More Film

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • Hannah Marks Liana Liberato

    Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato to Star in High School Comedy 'Banana Split'

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • NOR_D01_053017_9621_R2 – L-R: Tom Hanks (Ben

    Steven Spielberg's 'The Post' to Open Palm Springs Film Festival

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

  • Willa Fitzgerald

    'The Goldfinch' Movie Adaptation Casts Willa Fitzgerald (EXCLUSIVE)

    James M. Roberts, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 18 years ending in 1989, died March 28 in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., of emphysema. He was 87. The Toronto native was hired as the Academy’s controller in 1954. He had expected to remain concerned primarily with the org’s finances, but […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content