Tom Sherak had a long career as a studio executive and was involved in hundreds of films, including "Black Hawk Down," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "
For three years ending in 2012, he was outspoken president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, , during which he launched initiatives but also had to deal with public controversies, including the replacement of the producer and host of an Oscar show.
In September, at the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti, he became Los Angeles' film czar, , charged with trying to reverse the tide of runaway production. He took the czar job, which came with a $1-a-year salary, even as he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for
"I truly believe in that virtue of wanting to help give back for all the fruits my family and I have been able to have all these years," he told the
Sherak, 68, died Tuesday at home in Calabasas. He had been battling prostate cancer for 12 years, according to a family statement. A few hours before he died, a star honoring him was installed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in preparation for a ceremony scheduled for Feb. 14.
"Tom was a true Hollywood original," Garcetti said in a statement, "moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the
During his career, whether in the commercial end of the film industry or at the academy, Sherak was not shy about expressing his opinions in a spirited way. But he was also known as a diplomat who sought compromise, which is how he became president of the academy.
In early 2009, when he was a member of the organization's board of governors, he got in such a heated argument with screenwriter
Later that year, when it came time to elect a new president, Pierson nominated Sherak, who said he never coveted the non-paying job. But once it was his, he jumped into it with enthusiasm.
Not that it was always smooth sailing. At the start of his tenure, a much-hyped project, the construction of an academy museum, was on hold because of fund-raising difficulties in an economic downturn. And in 2010, longtime Executive Director Bruce Davis, who had run the administration of the organization in a closely held fashion, announced his retirement. Sherak took the opportunity to rework the academy's structure.
An outsider — Dawn Hudson, who had run the Film Independent group — was brought in as chief executive. Her push for more racial diversity and desire to bring younger film people into the invitation-only academy also ruffled some feathers.
Sherak brought changes to the awards, expanding the best picture nominations from five to as many as 10. He pushed the academy to skew its annual awards show to appeal to younger viewers. To that end, the 2011 show was hosted by the team of
Among Sherak's proudest accomplishments as academy president, he said in interviews, was to put the organization on more sure financial footing, in part by negotiating a long-term contract with
In a 2012 Times interview, Sherak called his years at the academy among the most satisfying of his career. "Getting up at 2 a.m. to do the Oscar nominations on ABC, I was here before anyone else. I couldn't wait to get here. It was like I was a kid again."
Thomas Mitchell Sherak was born June 22, 1945, in
He worked for other film companies, including Boston-based theater chain General Cinema as a film buyer. In 1983, he joined
After leaving the studio, he became a partner in Revolution Studios and also worked as a consultant.
In a 2009 interview with Film Journal International, he said some of his best memories as a child involved movies. "I remember like it was yesterday going with my sister and brother-in-law to see 'Shane' at the Tuxedo in Brooklyn," he said. "Those are the things that stay with you. There's nothing like going to a movie theater, sitting down for two hours in the dark and forgetting all your troubles."
Sherak is survived by his wife, Madeleine; daughters Barbra Neinstein of Calabasas and Melissa Glasser of Woodland Hills; son William Sherak of Studio City; sister Sandra Kalish of Philadelphia; and 10 grandchildren.