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 Sunday. 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.
“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’, ‘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.
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.
Pollock is survived by children Allegra, Luke and Alexandra, and four grandchildren.