UPDATE: Allison Shearmur, who died yesterday after a quiet battle with lung cancer at age 54, will have her funeral Monday at 4:30 PM at Temple Israel of Hollywood. Her family is requesting that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Simms Mann Cancer Center at UCLA.
The film community is reeling from the death of Shearmur, the diminutive studio executive and producer who seemed an indestructible force of energy to so many. I’ve been told what a champion she was for creativity and for women in the movie business, how proud she was to be a quadruplet and how close she was to her family, and how she kept her illness quiet from all but a few as she kept working up to the end, because she didn’t want to be a burden.
I’ve received an outpouring of tributes to Shearmur, who at Universal guided The Bourne Identity franchise, and at Lionsgate guided The Hunger Games, and who most recently produced Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Han Solo spinoff film that Ron Howard wrapped recently. Here are some of those tributes:
Bourne Identity producer Frank Marshall:
“It’s hard to believe that she’s gone. Alli was a special and unique individual. So much energy, focus, and drive, always with a wicked sense of humor. A true partner, an artist, smart as a whip, creative, loyal and fierce, always fierce. Fearless. Yet willing to be calm, collaborate and figure things out. She had a huge heart and was adored by everyone who knew her. It’s a devastating loss and I will miss her everyday.”
Han Solo director Ron Howard:
“Alli worked closely with us at Imagine when she was an executive at Universal. She was a joy to collaborate with—smart and hard working. As her career took off she navigated every new level of responsibility with aplomb but amazingly sustained that sense of joy around the process that made you as an artist or producer want to come through for her. It’s not a fluke that so many people did their best work when associated with Alli. She was kind and fun but had great taste and played to win. She brought out the best in so many artists while still making a lot of money for the companies for which she worked. She earned her industry’s respect by never backing away from a challenge or ducking a difficult job. Alli balanced her natural idealism with hard earned pragmatism proving to be a true dynamo. Working closely with Alli was a big reason I joined the Solo team and I’m devastated that she won’t see the finished version of a story she loved and believed in so much.
Alli’s passing is a heartbreaking loss for friends, family and the industry. She seemed to revel in challenges and seemed to be at her absolute best when there was a challenge to meet. Some turn their back on tough situations, while Alli would fearlessly enter the fray.
She was a tireless and valuable colleague, but Fun! Alli worked hard for success but somehow treated the entertainment business as though it was a crazy hilarious and exhilarating game to be played hard but never taken too seriously.
For Alli, family was always first.
As a producer on Solo: A Star Wars Story, she loved the story and the characters and what the movie offered fans. It makes all of us involved so sad to know we won’t be able to share the excitement of completing the movie with Alli. Of course, she will remain a huge presence in spirit, as she has been in life.”
Gary Ross, director of the first Hunger Games film: “I never loved my job more than working side by side with Alli. As a director, she put wind in your sails every single day– with trust, faith, honesty and belief. She was so rare. After Hunger Games, we rented some offices together in Hollywood and spent long hours staring out the windows, musing about life. I treasure every one of those memories. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her.”
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy: “What I learned from Ali’s illness was the strength of her spirit and drive, her love of life and everyone around her. She more than anyone I know, only saw what was possible and what was good. Her spirit will live on in her beautiful children and I treasure the time she was our friend and colleague.”
CAA Motion Picture Literary co-head Risa Gertner: “Alli and I met 30 years ago. She was my friend, my sister and my client. There was no one who lived their life with more heart and passion, for her family, her friends, her work, her art and of course her clothes. I miss her already. The world as we know it will not be the same without her.”
Bourne Identity, and Rogue One writer Tony Gilroy: “Alli and I did two pictures together. I met her in 1999, and she is really the entire reason The Bourne Identity came together. A lot of people pitched in, but she was the original gangster, the first person who drew me in and kept my head in it. It was an odd combo, to see such a determined person who could be tough, but she was 90 pounds of determination and a bottomless cup of sugar. Movies need mad champions, who keep the fire burning and on Bourne and Rogue One, she never wavered. She was sick a long time and nobody knew it, and she went all the way through Rogue One and didn’t tell anybody. There are many stories of her quietly doing favors for, taking care of and always looking out for people. She was strong, empathetic and had such good taste. One thing I know she regretted was that she wished she had spent less time in the studios and more time making movies. She was a great movie producer, who should have gotten out of the office a long time before she did. I was talking with my editor brother Johnny, who’s this beast and hard to get close to. He fell in love with Alli immediately, called her ‘my newt,’ and they just bonded and relied on each other all through Rogue One. He didn’t know she was sick until two weeks ago and could not believe it.”
20th Century Fox Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider: “It was the last decade of the twentieth century. Friends and Seinfeld were prime time mainstays. Fans were voguing with “Madge” and Home Alone was one of the top movies. A group of us had recently set up base at Columbia/TriStar after the infamous Sony/Guber-Peters deal. I met Alli on one of my first days there. With lightning fast delivery and a perfect blend of charming confidence and humility, Alli decided we would be friends.
“Hi! I’m Allison Brecker. I wanted to introduce myself. I went to Penn and you went to PENN! I’m from the East Coast and you’re from the East Coast! I work here in the management training program and you’re here too.” (She may have also complimented my ensemble. But maybe that came later.)
From that moment-and ever after -we were the kind of girlfriends that could go from a thorny production issue (Bourne!) to the rationale for another Prada bag, to kids and then back to business. Alli had great taste in material and talent. And she always landed the deal.
“Hi cookie! I love what you’re wearing! I know all your work and I love it! I have a great project for you. I’m sure we’re going to do great things together.”
Alli made things happen and and she made her life. I always admired her for that. She made my life sweeter and more fun and I’ll always love her for that.”
Director/producer Shawn Levy: “I did my very first movie with Alli, Big Fat Liar at Universal. She was Allison Brecker at that time, she was my very first studio executive on my very first movie as a director, period. Alli’s size was deceiving. She might have been tiny physically, but she was absolutely huge in spirit, smarts and taste. You knew you had arrived if Alli called you Cookie, this term of affection I never heard anyone else use. It spoke to the warmth with which she deal with people she respected and liked. I was just talking about this with John Hamburg, whom Alli introduced me to on that movie. We were remembering her devotion to the material and her determination to keep pushing it to something better, from script to edit, to marketing. It was relentless and that’s what made her so amazing.”
EARLIER, January 19, 5:39 PM PST: In a shockingly sad development, Allison Shearmur has died at age 54. She’d been fighting a brave battle against lung cancer and passed away unexpectedly this morning at UCLA Medical Center.
Shearmur served high-level executive stints at Paramount, Disney, Universal and Lionsgate and shepherded and exec produced The Hunger Games franchise and more recently was a producer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Han Solo spinoff that Ron Howard just wrapped. Shearmur, who was a quadruplet, was known as an advocate for material and filmmakers. She had strong relationships and taste. She loved being part of the movie business and had a strong sense of its history.
She is survived by her husband, Edward Shearmur; her daughter, Imogen; her son, Anthony; her parents, Martin & Rhoda Brecker; her sister Jodi & Fred Proust (Jodi’s husband); her brother, John & Heather Brecker (John’s wife); and Lisa (Alli’s sister) & Alan Hartstein (Lisa’s husband). She also leaves behind seven nieces and nephews.
The family is dealing with this unimaginable tragedy in real time. I expect tomorrow to be able to share more information from them, and some remembrances of people who worked with her.