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Tom Sherak: Hollywood film executive who brought big changes to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences


Tom Sherak, who has died from cancer, was a film marketing and distribution executive who became president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame hours before his death but was too ill to attend.

Sherak, who served as the head of the academy from 2009 until 2012 – the maximum three terms – spent 17 years at 20th Century Fox, where he became the domestic film group chairman. A champion of change, Sherak expanded the number of best picture Oscar nominees from five to 10 and was instrumental in bringing in younger academy members and making the group more diverse.

He was also an executive at Revolution Studios and Paramount Pictures, and worked on such blockbusters as Titanic, Die Hard, Wall Street, Independence Day and Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Last autumn he was appointed Los Angeles' film czar to help bring runaway productions back to the city. He was also responsible for completing a deal for the academy's new film museum with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the museum is tentatively scheduled to open in 2017.

He was born in New York in 1945. In 1970, after serving in the US army during the Vietnam war in an administrative capacity, he joined Paramount, and later Fox. At Revolution one of the films he oversaw was Black Hawk Down. For 20 years he was chairman of the annual MS Dinner of Champions, helping to raise millions of dollars for multiple sclerosis research. His daughter Melissa was diagnosed with MS when she was 15 years old.

"In the more than 30 years I've known Tom, his passionate support of and excitement about the motion picture business, his family and friends never wavered," said the current Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. "He was truly larger than life, and he will be missed."


Thomas Mitchell Sherak, film industry executive: born New York 22 June 1945; married Madeleine (two daughters, one son); died Calabasas, California 28 January 2014.