In July 2012, I showed up at the office of legendary Hollywood litigator Bert Fields along with Variety freelancer Bob Verini. We were doing a Q&A with the legendary Hollywood lawyer, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, in one of those nondescript Century City steel-and-glass skyscrapers. But once ushered into Fields’ inner sanctum, we stepped into a bespoke space of dim lighting, hushed tones, wood paneling and tomes of case law lining the walls.
“Hold all my calls,” Fields told his assistant, “unless it’s Tom Cruise.”
By then, Fields had long held a top position in the pantheon of entertainment attorneys. In addition to Cruise, clients included Michael Jackson, Warren Beatty, James Cameron, Madonna, the Beatles – not to mention Spielberg, Lucas, Ovitz and Katzenberg.
On the darker side of the business, Fields became embroiled in some of the shenanigans of shadowy showbiz detective Anthony Pellicano, whose services he often retained.
Unlike most entertainment lawyers, Fields played the field (ignore the pun). He never siloed his work, staying active in both litigation and transactional law, repping stars and studios alike.
But Fields was more than just an attorney. He soared above his peers through his literary scholarship and became an expert on Shakespeare, about whose world he wrote three books. He was also a Cole Porter connoisseur, acted, and penned mystery novels.
The term Renaissance Man – with its masculine orientation – may be falling out of favor, but let’s apply it nonetheless to an intellect that ranged across the practical, high-stakes world of entertainment law while at the same time extending to the more theoretical realm of literary investigation, where different and more lasting truths reveal themselves.
Bert Fields enriched his profession, and his passing diminishes it. We can only hope that others as colorful and smart as him will emerge in the future.