Tom Sherak, who died Tuesday of prostate cancer, was beloved in Hollywood for his long leadership of the Academy of Motion Pictures and his extensive charitable work as chairman of the MS Dinner of Champions and on the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Industry figures as well as Eric Garcetti, who appointed him film czar of Los Angeles, remembered him Tuesday for his work on behalf of the film business.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “I am devastated to learn of the passing of my close friend and advisor Tom Sherak. Tom was a true Hollywood original, moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the Oscars and having a bulging Rolodex filled with not just A-list contacts, but so many close friends who were smitten by his humor, drive, and spirit.
“In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years. Tom’s work will continue through my office and the many charities to which he devoted so much of himself. Tom was a public servant in the truest sense long before he joined my administration,” Garcetti continued.
Tom Rothman, who worked with Sherak at Fox, first as founder of Fox Searchlight, then as president of production, said, “Tom Sherak was a one of kind gift — to the film community, to his friends, who were legion, and above all his family. I was blessed to work with him for many years and, like all who knew him, loved him dearly. He was the Mayor of this town, not by vote but by permanent acclamation.
“He was such a life force that I don’t anyone who knew him believed that he would not beat cancer. He was determined to beat MS singlehandedly so we all believed that he would beat this too. He was filled with energy, optimism and love. And he was an expert at what he did,” Rothman said.
“Earlier today, MPTF lost a dear friend and longtime supporter,” said Bob Beitcher, CEO of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. “Tom Sherak was a former member of our MPTF Board of Directors. Throughout his career, he embodied in every way the spirit of ‘giving back’ to the entertainment industry – to friends and organizations – and he did it with an intensity and dedication that was not to be denied. Tom gave of himself not with a handshake but with a bear hug. He will be missed by the many, many people who have been touched over the years by his generosity of spirit, his kind heart, his friendship, and his abiding dedication to the value of family above all else.”
“Tom was a mentor to me and a good friend for almost three decades,” said James Cameron. “He embodied the heart and soul of movies — entertainment and showmanship — timeless values in our business. There was always a sparkle in his eye when it was time to release a film, and you knew that it was going to be a grand adventure playing out on a global stage. I will miss his spirit, his sense of fun, his love of cinema — but most of all, his friendship.”
Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO, 20th Century Fox Film, said,”Tom Sherak was a beloved friend and colleague and a part of the Fox family for decades. He was integral to the life and vitality of this studio during his time with us, and he left an indelible mark here. As his friend, I will always remember his big smile, and he made you happy just to be around him. We are incredibly saddened by his passing but know that his personal and professional legacy will remain with us forever.”
Bruce Snyder, former head of distribution at Fox, said, “In an industry of larger-than-life personalities, Tom was a giant. An amazing friend of mine for 40-plus years, a great colleague, a great boss and a world-class guy, the people he’s helped would fill an arena, and I will miss him terribly.”
CEO of Relativity Ryan Kavanaugh and president of Relativity Tucker Tooley said, “Tom Sherak was a true visionary and a leader to us all. We are honored to be able to call him a mentor and a friend. It is remarkable and a true testament to his character that his philanthropic accomplishments were somehow even more impressive than his groundbreaking career. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to have learned from him, and we join the entire industry in mourning this tragic loss.”
Gary Barber, chairman and CEO, MGM, said, “Tom was the epitome of a mensch. He was loved by one and all, and I was proud and honored to share so many memorable moments together.”
“Tom was a great industry leader and a great friend,” said Sumner Redstone. “I’ve known Tom for ages, and will miss him sadly. He was such a great friend. The industry will miss Tom. In some ways he is same man then as he was now, he was my best friend at one time.”
NATO, which will honor Sherak as Pioneer of the Year during CinemaCon in Las Vegas on March 26, said in a statement, “NATO and its six hundred movie theater company members mourn the loss of Tom Sherak. Tom graced the entire movie industry with a huge heart and a brilliant mind. Tom supported charity with boundless and unparalleled energy. Tom created compromise and peace in an industry known for factions.”
“Tom Sherak was a true champion of our industry, from his days as a studio executive through his Academy tenure and beyond,” said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. “My family and I are deeply saddened at his passing and will miss both his professional dedication and, more importantly, his friendship.”
“He had earned the respect of everyone in this town,” said Rob Friedman, head of the motion picture group at Lionsgate who worked with Sherak while Sherak was president of the Academy. “He had such enthusiasm, whether he was talking about his favorite charity or the Academy.”
“It is a true loss for the industry and for me personally. He was my dearest friend,” said Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore, who was partnered with Sherak and Joe Roth in the now defunct production company Revolution Studios. Moore, who continued working with Sherak after Revolution was shuttered, giving him an office on the Paramount lot and a deal as a consultant, added: “Nobody cared more about helping people than Tom. He had so much experience and was such a great resource. Moore says at Paramount Sherak would work closely with filmmakers on movies that had ratings issues — including ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘True Grit’ — among others. “He would help them through the process. He understood the nuance of how it all worked. What had to come out and stay in.”
Bob Daly, former head of Warner Bros. and CBS, said he and his son Brian, to whom Sherak was a mentor, went to say goodbye to Sherak today at his home after learning that didn’t have long to live. “His wife was holding his hand and said, ‘you can talk to him, he may hear you but he can’t talk.’ I gave him a kiss goodbye,” said Daly. “Tom and I go back to when I was at Warner Bros. and he was at Fox. I tried to hire him two or three times but he never wanted to leave Fox. He was a very good man. There was nobody who didn’t like Tom.”
Daly, who was a former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, fondly recalls flying to Arizona with Sherak last year for spring training. “I stayed one day, he stayed a week.” When the Dodgers were sold to Frank McCourt at the end of 2004, Daly said he joined Sherak’s group of friends who shared tickets to the games at Dodgers stadium.
“Tom was an incredible man who had a zeal for life unlike anyone I’ve ever known,” said Hawk Koch, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and current president of the Producers Guild of America. “He was a real advocate for our industry and his sheer determination to move the Academy forward was paramount and has had a profound effect on all of us.”
“To Marvel, Tom Sherak was a source of great encouragement, a man we could rely on and trust,” said Alan Fine, president of Marvel Entertainment. “He unselfishly shared his wisdom, guidance and friendship, and he deserves much credit for Marvel’s success.”
Tim Warner, CEO of Cinemark, said, “I had the distinct honor and pleasure of working very closely with Tom. He was extremely helpful to me and our industry as we developed Showest into what it has become today, CinemaCon, the largest gathering of exhibition in the world.”
“Tom was the nicest guy I ever met in Hollywood,” said director Peter Farrelly. “He was a total gentleman and good soul. When “Kingpin” came out and flopped, he was the first to call up and say if it came out at Fox they would have done well with it. He asked us to come over and that’s how we ended up there. He said if we do the next one at Fox, that we will do better for you.”
“We worked with him for 7 years, but he got us a seat at that table, and at that part of our career, I don’t know what we would have done,” Farrelly continued. “He was more the nicest guy we ever met. And he raised more money in this town than anyone. It’s a huge loss.”
His brother, Bobby Farrelly, added, “He was a pretty special guy to the town of Hollywood and there are some big shoes to fill. If you ever got in a jam or a pickle and had one phone call, you call Tom Sherak. He wouldn’t drop the ball and he’d do whatever he could do. Those people are rare. He was the top of the top. We looked at him like a family member. We lost our own dad this year, and I just thought, maybe they are playing golf in heaven. But boy, it’s a big void.”
“He had a unique role, there was no one quite like him,” he continued. “He was a problem solver, he didn’t have a specific title, but he was a power broker and when he talked people listened. He gave you all his brain, that was immense, and all of his heart which was immenser.”
In a statement, AMC Theatres said, “We at AMC Theatres are collectively saddened by Tom’s passing. There are few individuals that have left their mark on our industry in the very personal, passionate way he did. Tom’s professional commitment to the art of movie-making and his unwavering dedication to philanthropic endeavors made him one of our industry’s most inspirational champions. “
AMC Theatres CEO Jerry Lopez added, “On a personal note, I will miss Tom’s warm smile and endless willingness to help. When I arrived at AMC, I was new to the industry. Tom went out of his way to make me feel welcome, to share and educate me about the business. His was a caring approach, and he uniquely set the standard we aspire to follow every day.”
Joe Roth, who worked with Sherak at Fox and Revolution, said, ” He was my oldest and closest friend. When his daughter got MS, he became the biggest fundraiser. He wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. And we had a lot of fun together. He was a Brooklyn who never stopped loving the Dodgers.”
SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard said, “Tom was a champion of our industry, and all those who knew him or had the privilege to work with him can attest to his integrity, drive and leadership. On behalf of all SAG-AFTRA members, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sherak family.”
“I am more than certain from this day forward if you look up the word ‘mensch’ in the dictionary, it will say Tom Sherak,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Hollywood has lost one of its greatest.”
“It’s a sad day for the entertainment industry with the loss of a truly remarkable man, Tom Sherek,” said Dick Cook, film producer and former chair of The Walt Disney Studios. “Tom was a true visionary as well as an amazing executive. But most importantly he was a dedicated husband and father whose humanitarian acts of kindness helped raise millions and millions of dollars for many important causes close to Tom’s heart. I am proud to have called Tom a very dear friend. My heart and prayers go out to his family, friends, and all of those who have been touched by this extraordinary man.”