Bert Fields, the relentlessly loyal powerhouse entertainment lawyer who repped clients including Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Tom Cruise, George Lucas, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and many others in myriad headline-making cases in Hollywood, died Sunday at his home in Malibu, his rep said today. He was 93.
A partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, Fields tried many of the landmark cases in the entertainment and communications industries during the past several decades. He represented most major Hollywood studios and talent agencies during his singular career and such other bold-faced names as Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen, James Cameron, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Mike Nichols, Jerry Bruckheimer, Joel Silver, Madonna and writers Mario Puzo, James Clavell, Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler.
Harvey Weinstein, told The New York Times in 2005, ”In the entertainment business, walking into litigation without Bert Fields is like walking into the Arctic without a jacket.”
“For 40 years, we were graced with Bert’s brilliance, decency, and charm,” said Bob Baradaran, Managing Partner of Greenberg Glusker, where Fields spent most of his career. “Bert was a beloved colleague, friend, and mentor who trained a generation of outstanding lawyers. We were blessed to know and work with such a truly remarkable lawyer and human being.”
Said Cruise, a longtime client: “Bert Fields was a gentleman; an extraordinary human being. He had a powerful intellect, a keen wit and charm that made one enjoy every minute of his company. I loved him dearly and always will. It was a privilege to be his friend.”
His many high-profile cases included repping Katzenberg in his messy divorce from Disney and Lucas deal with Disney’s theme parks, Jackson’s landmark contract with Sony Music, winning a huge award for the Beatles and Apple Corps over the Beatlemania musical and another later for George Harrison against his ex-business manager, Paramount’s appeal of the Buchwald v. Paramount case over Coming to America and Beatty’s fight to keep Paramount from cutting a few minutes from his film Reds.
He also repped DreamWorks SKG and Steven Spielberg in defeating an application for an injunction against exhibition of the Oscar winner’s 1997 film Amistad.
“Watching Bert was like watching a skilled surgeon,” Katzenberg once said.
He famously was “banned” from Disney by then-boss Michael Eisner. “I think it was over Lucas, I’m not sure,” he told Deadline in a 2015 interview. “But I was banned and Jeffrey Katzenberg really solved that. He was working at Disney at the time, and he had asked me to lunch, and he said, ‘Look, I’m sorry about that and I’m going to try and make it work out.’ And he did. I was starting a strike by all the key entertainment lawyers against Disney. I was going to say if they’re barring me from the lot, none of us are going to deal with Disney. But I didn’t have to do that because Jeffrey got Eisner to back down.”
Fields also was a key figure in the case of Anthony Pellicano, the disgraced and convicted private investigator who specialized in digging up dirt on Hollywood heavyweights by whatever means necessary — oftentimes illegally.
Fields was a prolific writer. He authored books including two novels, biographies on Richard III and Elizabeth I and an analysis of the Shakespeare authorship question.
When The Godfather author and client Puzo died he was working on The Family, Fields finished It, Puzo, who notably admired Fields’ writing style in his legal briefs, left notes for Fields on the The Borgias so that Fields could complete the historical novel.
“I have lost my dearest friend, colleague and mentor,” said Greenberg Glusker partner Pierce O’Donnell. “An American original, Bert was simply the greatest lawyer of his era in the same league as Clarence Darrow and Louis Nizer. Ever a gentleman, Bert lived life his way on his terms. Indefatigable, Bert was truly a Renaissance man: author, actor, raconteur, and a music enthusiast who knew every Cole Porter lyric. I will miss Bert more than words can express.”
Bertram Fields was born on March 31, 1929 in Los Angeles. After going to UCLA, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After serving as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he began his law practice. He later taught at Stanford Law School and lectured annually at Harvard.
Fields is survived by his wife, Barbara Guggenheim, a nationally known art consultant; his son, James Elder; his grandson, Michael Lane; and his granddaughter, Annabelle.