LOS ANGELES –
Bert Fields, for decades the go-to lawyer for Hollywood A-listers including Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, George Lucas and the Beatles, and a character as colourful as many of his clients, has died at age 93.
Fields died Sunday at his home in Malibu, California, with his wife, art consultant Barbara Guggenheim, at his side, according to an announcement from Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, the law firm he helped make a Hollywood powerhouse.
Fields had been suffering from long-term neurological effects of COVID-19, firm spokesman Seth Horowitz said.
“Bert Fields was a gentleman; an extraordinary human being,” Cruise, a longtime client, said in a statement. “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.”
Fields was known for his fierce advocacy in the courtroom and his personal flair outside it, with bespoke suits, chauffeured cars and an unmatched set of talents.
“He was extremely witty and charming with all the elegance of a true gentleman,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer said in a statement. “But he also had the determination and grit of a street fighter.”
Law partner and close friend Pierce O’Donnell called Fields “the greatest lawyer of his era” and “truly a Renaissance man: advocate, author, historian, actor, raconteur, recording artist, and a music enthusiast who knew every Cole Porter lyric.”
His cases included a multimillion-dollar judgment for Beatle George Harrison against his former business manager, and a win for Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Pictures in an attempted injunction against the release of the director’s film “Amistad,” and a successful attempt by Warren Beatty to prevent cuts to a TV showing of his film “Reds.”
Powerful clients meant taking on powerful opposition. Many of Fields’ most famous cases came against the Walt Disney Co. He represented former executive Jeffrey Katzenberg in his heated split from the company, getting him a US$250 million settlement. He represented Lucas in his negotiations with Disney parks. And he represented Harvey and Bob Weinstein in their attempt to separate their company, Miramax, from Disney. Fields would negotiate a deal where the brothers got money to start the new Weinstein Co. instead.
“In the entertainment business walking into litigation without Bert Fields is like walking into the Arctic without a jacket,” Harvey Weinstein, now a convicted rapist serving a prison sentence, told the New York Times in 2005.
In the early 2000s, Fields became entangled in the investigation of a private detective he used, Anthony Pellicano, who would later be sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegal wiretapping and other convictions. Fields was questioned by federal investigators, but denied any knowledge of illegal activity and was never charged.
Bertram Fields was born in Los Angeles on March 31, 1929, the son of a retired ballet dancer and an eye surgeon. He graduated from University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard Law School, and served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War before beginning his work as a lawyer.
He was also a prolific author, with published books on William Shakespeare and King Richard III.
His clients, who often became his close friends, were steadfast in their loyalty to him and effusive in their praise after his death.
“He was a brilliant renaissance man,” Dustin Hoffman said in a statement, “and, yet, he still had time to be an incredible, kind friend.”
Along with Guggenheim, Fields is survived by son James Elder Fields and grandchildren Michael and Annabelle.