Former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak died today of complications due to a long battle with prostate cancer. The studio marketing, distribution and production executive whose Hollywood career spanned five decades was 68. President of the Academy from 2009-12, Sherak also was a champion of the Southern California Multiple Sclerosis Society, helping to raise about $40 million for the organization’s research and programs during the past 20 years — his charity work meant more to him than any of his business endeavors. Sherak died at his home in Calabasas, CA, surrounded by family and friends.
Related: Hollywood Remembers Tom Sherak
His family has released a statement this afternoon: “To the entertainment community: With broken hearts we want to share with you the news that Tom Sherak passed away today after a long 12 year battle with prostate cancer. He died at home surrounded by his family giving him hugs, kisses, and love. Tom is, was, and always will be, our loving husband, daddy, papa, brother, friend, and “Go to Guy.” He blessed this earth for 68 incredible years, and he will be missed every single day. Tom lived his life as an open book. He opened his heart and let the world in, and anyone who was lucky enough to know him knew first hand the power of his love. He gave everything he had to help others, regardless of whether or not he knew them. Tom is a true hero in our lives who has a star on the sidewalk and wings to fly. We love him so very much.”
In September, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Sherak as the city’s first film czar. Taking a $1 salary, he was tasked with putting together a plan to halt runaway production and increase the shooting of films and TV shows in Hollywood’s backyard. Along with his growing team at the city’s Entertainment Industry and Production office, he had brought aboard former MPAA President Bob Pisano as an unofficial “consigliere” and tapped former Time Warner exec Rajiv Dalal as his deputy. “In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years,” Garcetti said tonight. “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. He will be deeply missed.”
In October, during his first civic event since being named film czar, today said he intended to have a plan to increase production in the city around the beginning of 2014. Sherak and his team were working on that plan when his health took a turn for the worse, though he told our Pete Hammond after his job was announced that his public battle with cancer was not an issue. “I am going through all kinds of stuff with my body, and somebody once said don’t make a decision when your body’s going one way and your head’s going another way,” he said at the time. “I took another couple of days and said I wanted to meet with the mayor. … I told him when it was all done to let me go home and talk to (my wife). I did, and she said, ‘Take it.’ I next called my oncologist, and he said, ‘Tom, take it; you’re going to be fine.’ And that’s what happened.”
Sherak began his career at Paramount in 1970 in distribution, and after a stint as head film buyer at General Cinema, he worked at 20th Century Fox in various capacities in the 1980s. That’s where he began to put his stamp on some of the biggest movies of that decade, first as President of Domestic Distribution and Marketing, then Senior EVP of 20th Century Fox, and eventually Chairman of 20th Century Fox Domestic Film Group. He oversaw such titles as Romancing The Stone, Commando, Aliens, The Fly, Broadcast News, Predator, Wall Street, three Die Hard movies, Working Girl, The War Of The Roses, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands, the Star Wars trilogy special edition, Mrs. Doubtfire, True Lies, Speed, Independence Day and Star Wars: Episode I –The Phantom Menace. Afterward he became a partner with Joe Roth in Revolution Studios, which released more than 30 movies during its seven-year run including Black Hawk Down, Rent, Click and Rocky Balboa. After serving at treasurer at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Sherak was elected president in 2009 and served three one-year terms.
He also had been a consultant that worked all over Hollywood, including for Marvel Studios on its superhero pics including Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor; for Relativity Media; and Skydance Productions. Most recently he had an office on the Paramount lot and helped the studio work with the MPAA on ratings negotiations for Best Picture Oscar nominee The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Among Sherak’s charity work, he at one time served as chairman of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, on the Board of Directors for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and the Southern California Variety – the Children’s Charity. Earler this month, he was tapped to receive the Will Rogers foundation’s 2014 Pioneer of the Year Award, which is to be bestowed March 26 at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.