Hollywood luminaries of all stripes expressed their admiration for Tom Sherak, the longtime studio executive and former president of the Academy who died Tuesday after a long fight with prostate cancer. Words like integrity, mentor and champion were passed around to describe the former Fox and Paramount executive.
“He singularly raised the bar of integrity with those of us who were lucky enough to know him,” iconic producer Robert Evans tweeted, while Henry Winkler added this: “If you needed him…Tom was always there. Tom we are so happy you were in our lives .. Our thoughts go to all the Sheraks.”
Sid Ganis, Sherak’s predecessor as Academy president (and, Sherak said, his mentor in the job), sent TheWrap an email that read, “Heartbreaking … he fought and he fought. His family right there fighting with him. He was a good, good man … for our industry and for mankind. Both equally important to him.”
Sherak’s impact extended beyond Hollywood. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who appointed Sherak film czar last year, was one of the first to weigh in.
“Tom Sherak’s humor, drive, & universal appeal were truly unique,” Garcetti tweeted. “We last spoke on Fri, and his love of LA and filming were second to none.”
The mayor subsequently issued a statement that he was “devastated to learn of the passing of my close friend and advisor Tom Sherak. Tom was a true Hollywood original, moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the Oscars and having a bulging Rolodex filled with not just A-list contacts, but so many close friends who were smitten by his humor, drive, and spirit.”
The Academy saluted Sherak’s remarkable five-decade career. “His passion and tireless energy impacted the Academy in countless ways, especially his support of our new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures,” the organization’s statement said.
Current Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson also paid tribute to Sherak late Tuesday.
“In the more than 30 years I’ve known Tom, his passionate support of and excitement about the motion picture business, the Academy, his family and friends never wavered,” Isaacs said. “He was truly larger than life, and he will be missed.”
Hudson called Sherak her mentor and friend. “I learned from him, I laughed with him, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the time we shared together,” Hudson said. “He had a huge influence on the direction of our Academy and on me personally. I will miss laughing with him most of all.”
Former Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said that the film industry has lost one of its greatest advocates with Sherak’s death.
“He dedicated his life to the movies, helping to share some of our greatest stories with the world,” Dodd said, adding that his loss will be felt by the entire entertainment industry.
Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO, 20th Century Fox Film, called Sherak a beloved friend, noting that he had been part of the Fox family for decades.
“He was integral to the life and vitality of this studio during his time with us, and he left an indelible mark here,” Gianopulos said. “As his friend, I will always remember his big smile, and he made you happy just to be around him.
Gianopulos said that Sherak’s “personal and professional legacy will remain with us forever,” adding, “He will be missed but never forgotten.”
Filmmakers including Jim Cameron and George Lucas paid tribute to Sherak.
“Tom’s passion for everything he did made him an inspiration to work with,” “Star Wars” mastermind Lucas said. “His boundless enthusiasm for ‘Star Wars’ earned him an honorary Jedi master title.”
Cameron called Sherak a mentor and a good friend for almost three decades. “He embodied the heart and soul of movies — entertainment and showmanship — timeless values in our business,” the “Avator” director said. “There was always a sparkle in his eye when it was time to release a film, and you knew that it was going to be a grand adventure playing out on a global stage.
“I will miss his spirit, his sense of fun, his love of cinema — but most of all, his friendship.”
Disney chief Alan Horn described Sherak as a true champion of our industry.
“From his days as a studio executive through his Academy tenure and beyond,” Horn said in a statement. “My family and I are deeply saddened at his passing and will miss both his professional dedication and, more importantly, his friendship. Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom?s family today.”
Hawk Koch, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and current President of the Producers Guild of America, also eulogized Sherak’s spirit.
“Tom was an incredible man who had a zeal for life unlike anyone I’ve ever known,” Koch said. ” He was a real advocate for our industry and his sheer determination to move the Academy forward was paramount and has had a profound effect on all of us.”
Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and President Tucker Tooley called Sherak a true visionary and leader to us all in a joint statement.
“We are honored to be able to call him a mentor and a friend,” they said jointly. “It is remarkable and a true testament to his character that his philanthropic accomplishments were somehow even more impressive than his groundbreaking career. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to have learned from him, and we join the entire industry in mourning this tragic loss.”
Here are a few other reactions:
“Film has lost one of its biggest champions! wonderful man, mentor! and human being.” — Columbia Pictures production co-chief Michael De Luca
“Tom Sherak was the rarest of breeds in this business; a truly good man. He will be missed.” — writer/director Chris McQuarrie
I’m so sad about the passing of Tom Sherak. He was such a good guy. He ran distribution when @Dean_Devlin and I did ID4. RIP 🙁
– Roland Emmerich (@rolandemmerich) January 29, 2014
My pal, Tom Sherak was 1 of the great souls I have ever known. He passed today. Rest his soul. The film world & my world lost a good man.
Tom Sherak was unique, special, a giant. The world he left is better because of him.
– Oren Aviv (@orenaviv) January 29, 2014