Tom Pollock, former Universal chairman and ‘Star Wars’ deal maker, dies at 77

Tom Pollock, right, with director Jason Reitman at an AFI event in 2012.
(Getty Images)

Tom Pollock, the Hollywood dealmaker who steered George Lucas through his “Star Wars” negotiations and went on to serve as chairman on Universal Studios for 10 years, died Saturday. He was 77.

The news was confirmed by the American Film Institute, where Pollock served as chairman after leaving the studio. A cause of death was not announced.

For the record:

10:24 a.m. Aug. 3, 2020An earlier version of this article misstated the day of Tom Pollock’s death as Sunday. It was Saturday.

“I don’t know anyone who loved movies more than Tom Pollock,” said AFI President Bob Gazzale. “I think his lasting legacy will be how he devoted his peerless legal mind to ensuring that young storytellers could find their dream up on the big screen. He was a lawyer, but he was in complete service to this nation’s storytellers. He joined AFI in 1986, and he never let us go. He was always a force of nature at the trustee table.”


Thomas Philip Pollock was born April 10, 1943, in Los Angeles. After graduating from Stanford University in 1964, he attended Columbia Law School and later began his career as an entertainment lawyer.

In 1970, Pollock started his own firm, and Lucas was among his first clients. Lucas was working on his debut feature film, “THX 1138,” and Pollock negotiated what would be a billion-dollar deal that secured Lucas the merchandising and sequel rights to “Star Wars.” Pollock also was instrumental in negotiating the “Indiana Jones” and “Superman” franchises.

In 1986, Pollock left his firm to serve as executive vice president of MCA and chairman of Universal Pictures, a post he held until 1996. He oversaw the release of blockbusters including “Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future” and its sequels, “Do the Right Thing,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Twins,” “Cape Fear,” “Parenthood,” “The Flintstones,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Casper,” “Waterworld” and “Casino.”

During his tenure, Universal released more than 200 films that grossed in excess of $10 billion worldwide and earned seven Academy Award best picture nominations, including one for 1994 winner “Schindler’s List.” Pollock was credited for bringing in creative talents such as Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, George Miller, Rob Cohen, Ivan Reitman and James Cameron.

“We are incredibly saddened by the loss of Tom Pollock,” said Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal. “He played a critical role in securing our studio’s legacy and was an extraordinary executive, influential attorney and a dear friend to so many of us. We will forever feel his impact on our company and within our industry. On behalf of everyone at Universal, we send our deepest condolences to his family and honor his extraordinary accomplishments.”

Pollock left Universal to become chairman of AFI, where he oversaw production of the institute’s “100 Years ...100 Movies” TV special. He later served as vice chair of the AFI board and head of the AFI Awards jury until his death.


In 1998, Pollock and Reitman founded the Montecito Picture Co., which produced films including “Road Trip,” “Old School,” “Disturbia,” “Up in the Air” (a best picture nominee), “I Love You, Man,” “Chloe,” “No Strings Attached,” “Hitchcock,” “Draft Day,” “Baywatch” and “Father Figures.” He also served as an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara.

Pollock is survived by his mother, Helene Pollock; his sister, Margo Sinclair, and brother, Ken Pollock; his children Alexandra Gagerman, Allegra Brandano and Luke Pollock; his four grandchildren, Haley, Benjamin, Amelia and Owen.