Sid Sheinberg, executive who discovered Spielberg, dies at age 84
Sid Sheinberg, the man who helped build MCA and Universal Pictures into major Hollywood contenders, has died at the age of 84. According to Deadline, the news was first reported by his son, producer/director Jon Sheinberg, on Instagram. No cause of death has been revealed at this time.
Sheinberg was a lawyer who spent 40 years as president of COO of MCA Inc. and Universal Studios. During that time, he managed to turn Universal Pictures into a major player. During Sheinberg’s tenure, the studio released some of the highest-grossing films of the last three decades of the 20th century, including Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park. Sheinberg’s other noteworthy productions included Out of Africa, The Breakfast Club, Schindler’s List, Apollo 13 and Back to the Future.
One of his biggest achievements is the fact he gave Steven Spielberg his first job as a TV director, and helped nurture his career. The acclaimed filmmaker released a statement following news of Sheinberg’s death, which was picked up by Deadline.
“My heart is broken at this news. For now, let me just say that Sid had a big personality and a tender heart. He was the tallest most stand up guy I ever knew. He gave birth to my career and made Universal my home. He gave me Jaws, I gave him ET and he gave me Schindler’s List. We were a team for 25 years and he was my dear friend for 50. I have no concept about how to accept that Sid is gone. For the rest of my life, I will owe him more than I can express.”
Born in 1935, Sheinberg grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Later, he went to Columbia Law School in New York before heading west in 1958. He taught at UCLA School of Law and joined MCA TV subsidiary Revue Productions, which was his first foray into show business.
A memorable chapter in his career saw him going head-to-head publicly with filmmaker Terry Gilliam over Sheinberg’s plan to recut the Universal film Brazil into a 94-minute film with a happy ending. The film’s director took out a full page ad in Variety reading, “Dear Sid Sheinberg, When are you going to release my film ‘BRAZIL’? -Terry Gilliam” Critics who saw the original, bleaker cut lavished it with awards, thus leading to the film being released untampered with. The story became the subject of a book, “The Battle of Brazil.”
Following the takeover of Universal by Seagram in 1995, Sheinberg struck out on his own with production outfit The Bubble Factory, but most of its releases turned out to be flops, including film versions of TV series McHale’s Navy and Flipper.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, actress Lorraine Gary (Jaws), and their two sons Bill and Jon Sheinberg.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)