Sidney Sheinberg, who died Thursday at the age of 84, was not just a movie mogul who teamed with Lew Wasserman to build MCA/Universal into a Hollywood powerhouse. He also gave Steven Spielberg his first directing job. It launched a lifetime partnership that included the highest-grossing films of the last three decades of the 20th century: Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park.
The list of collaborations between Hollywood mentor and mentee also includes Schindler’s List, which won seven Oscars in 1994 including the first of Spielberg’s two Best Director statuettes.
Spielberg reacted to tonight’s news of Sheinberg’s passing in a statement through Spielberg’s Amblin Partners:
“My heart is broken at this news,” he said. “For now let me just say that Sid had a big personality and a tender heart. He was the tallest most stand up guy I ever knew. He gave birth to my career and made Universal my home. He gave me Jaws, I gave him ET and he gave me Schindler’s List. We were a team for 25 years and he was my dear friend for 50. I have no concept about how to accept that Sid is gone. For the rest of my life I will owe him more than I can express.”
Amblin also tweeted out tonight: