There must be a thousand people in Hollywood whose careers have been helped by Tom Sherak. My brother Peter and I count ourselves among this group, and we will forever be grateful. I personally owe Tom a larger debt of gratitude, however, because he saved my life. For real.
It was autumn of 2001, and we were putting the finishing touches on our new movie, “Shallow Hal.” Living in Boston at the time, I had to make arrangements to fly to L.A. to attend a Tuesday night test-screening of the film in Valencia. My kids were young, and I savored every moment I could spend with them, so I decided to make the long cross-country flight early Tuesday morning.
Two days before the scheduled flight, I received a call at home from Tom, asking me to kindly consider attending his annual gala benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society on Monday night. I knew that Tom’s beautiful daughter Melissa was stricken with MS, and that it tore a hole in his heart to see her suffer. Tom passionately explained how he and his lovely wife Madeleine believed that finding a cure for MS was just around the corner, and that they needed the help of all their friends at this critical time.
I was never class valedictorian, but I’m smart enough to not disappoint a man I respect as much as Tom. So I called American Airlines and changed my itinerary from Flight 11 on 9/11/01 to the same flight on 9/10/01.
It was a smooth flight, and the MS Gala was a spectacular success. Whitney Houston sang, and all the world seemed like a wonderful place. The horrific events that unfolded the next morning, of course, changed that in a hurry. Fate is an enigmatic bedfellow, and I will never understand why I was spared while so many other wonderful people (including a few friends of mine) were not. All I know is that I’m grateful I got to be friends with the late, great Tom Sherak.
Writers-directors Bobby and his brother Peter — known simply as the Farrelly Bros. — worked with Sherak on the Fox comedies “There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself & Irene.”