Los Angeles film czar Tom Sherak dies, 68; family, Motion Picture Academy, politicians react

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Tom Sherak, who was named Los Angeles's first film czar by Mayor Eric Garcetti in September, has died, the mayor confirmed on Twitter. Sherak was 68.

Sherak died at home following a 12-year battle with prostate cancer, according to a statement from Shearak's family. Sherak had been heading up the city's new Entertainment Industry and Production Office.

While it was known Sherak suffered from prostate cancer when he was offered the position, but Sherak decided to take the job in spite of his disease, Deadline reports.

"I told [the mayor] when it was all done to let me go home and talk to [my wife]," Sherak told a Deadline reporter. "I did, and she said, ‘Take it.’ I next called my oncologist, and he said, ‘Tom, take it; you’re going to be fine.’"

Sherak was a Hollywood veteran, beginning with Paramount in 1970 and serving as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2009 to 2012. He'd also held roles with Twentieth Century Fox and was a partner with Revolution Studios.

Films made under his watch included "Aliens," "Broadcast News," "Predator," several members of the Die Hard franchise, "Home Alone, "Edwards Scissorhands," "Speed," "Independence Day," "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" and "Black Hawk Down." He later worked as a consultant on Marvel superhero films including "Thor" and "Iron Man."

Sherak had recently helped negotiate between Paramount and the MPAA to get an R rating for "Wolf of Wall Street," Deadline reports.

Sherak took a $1 annual salary for his work as L.A.'s film czar. Sherak also worked as a faculty member with the UCLA Producers Program.

Sherak was scheduled to receive the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation's Pioneer of the Year award in March at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. The honor had been announced earlier this month. He also raised over $47 million for the Southern California Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Mayor Garcetti issued a statement on Sherak's death:

"I am 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.

"In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years. Tom's work will continue through my office and the many charities to which he devoted so much of himself. 

"Tom was a public servant in the truest sense long before he joined my administration. He will be deeply missed."

Sherak's family issued a statement following his death through the Academy:

To the entertainment community,

With broken hearts we want to share with you the news that Tom Sherak passed away today after a long 12 year battle with prostate cancer.  He died at home surrounded by his family giving him hugs, kisses, and love.

Tom is, was, and always will be, our loving husband, daddy, papa, brother, friend, and “Go to Guy.”  He blessed this earth for 68 incredible years, and he will be missed every single day.

Tom lived his life as an open book.  He opened his heart and let the world in, and anyone who was lucky enough to know him knew first hand the power of his love.  He gave everything he had to help others, regardless of whether or not he knew them.  Tom is a true hero in our lives who has a star on the sidewalk and wings to fly.

We love him so very much.

The Academy issued its own statement on Sherak's death:

The Academy is deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved former president Tom Sherak.

Sherak joined the Executives Branch of the Academy in 1983. He served three terms on the Board of Governors, from August 2003 through July 2012, the last three as President.

He was most recently named Los Angeles film czar by Mayor Eric Garcetti to support local film production and serve as a liaison between state lawmakers and the entertainment industry.

Sherak’s remarkable five-decade career has seen him at the pinnacle of motion picture marketing, distribution and production at companies including Revolution Studios, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures.

He was founder and chairman of the MS Hope Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting the needs of the Multiple Sclerosis community.

His passion and tireless energy impacted the Academy in countless ways – especially his support of our new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Statement from Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President

“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. He was truly larger than life, and he will be missed.”

Statement from Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO

“He was my mentor and my friend.  I learned from him, I laughed with him, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the time we shared together.  He had a huge influence on the direction of our Academy and on me personally.  I will miss laughing with him most of all.”

L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian sent out a statement on Sherak's death:

"My heart goes out to Tom Sherak's family and all of Los Angeles as we mourn the passing of a giant in the film and television industry. While I only had the opportunity to work briefly with Tom to help Los Angeles halt runaway production, his legacy and generosity of spirit was well known throughout Hollywood. Perhaps the greatest measure of a life is the memory it leaves and Tom's legacy of charity work and in helping Los Angeles will endure."

This story has been updated.

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