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Hollywood’s top lawyer Bert Fields dies after COVID battle

Bert Fields, the prominent and feared Hollywood litigant who represented stars including Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson and Mel Brooks, died on Sunday. He was 93 years old.

Greenberg attorney Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger died at his Malibu home in the presence of his wife, Barbara Guggenheim, a spokesperson confirmed in a statement Monday. He died after a long COVID, the spokesperson added.

Fields fought landmark entertainment industry cases, including George Lucas’ contract negotiations over the Walt Disney theme park rights, and in the late 1980s represented Paramount Pictures in its legal battle over the film. Coming to America. He successfully won a multi-million dollar judgment for George Harrison against the former Beatles business manager.

“For forty years we have been honored with Bert’s brilliance, decency and charm,” Bob Baradaran, managing partner of Greenberg Glusker, said in a statement. “Bert was a beloved colleague, friend and mentor who nurtured a generation of exceptional lawyers.”

Known for his unflappable and relentless style in court, Fields has defended studio executives and stars and regularly appeared on top attorney lists.

Fields represented DreamWorks SKG and Steven Spielberg, and beat an injunction against the exposure of the film “Amistad”.

In addition to DreamWorks, his client list included studios like MGM and United Artists, as well as filmmakers like James Cameron, Mike Nichols and Joel Silver.

He has also represented famous musicians, including Van Morrison, the Beatles and Michael Jackson, whom he defended against allegations in 1993 that he molested an underage boy. The case was settled for over $20 million, with Jackson admitting no wrongdoing.

One of his most high-profile cases involved representing media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg in his $250 million lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co. for a share of profits from hits such as ‘The Lion King’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’. “. The case settled for an undisclosed sum in 1999.

Fields’ aggressive questioning inflamed Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who admitted he had once belittled Katzenberg, telling the co-author of his autobiography, “I hate the little dwarf.”

In an interview with The New Yorker in 2006, Fields revealed how he honed his craft: “If I were a general, I would attack and keep pressing the attack – to unbalance the opponent, change the odds and make a settlement your way much more favorable. … It forces the other side to think, Hey, I can lose this case. Let’s settle this.

In his legal battles with the studios, Fields earned a reputation as a tough, win-at-all-costs litigator on behalf of many celebrity clients.

In a high-profile case, he fought Paramount Pictures to protect writer-director Elaine May’s final cut of the 1976 film “Mikey and Nicky.”

“He was what you always thought Perry Mason was,” May told The New Yorker in 2006. “He did it all, and he did it without pay because I had no money. I finally paid it a year later, but he didn’t know I would.

Paramount settled the case. A few years later, Fields successfully took on the same studio on behalf of Warren Beatty, when the “Reds” director balked at cutting four minutes from the film.

After his passing, longtime customers expressed their appreciation for Fields.

“Bert Fields was a gentleman; an extraordinary human being,” Cruise said in a statement. “He had a powerful intelligence, a quick wit and a charm that made every minute of his company worth enjoying. I loved him very much and will always love him.

Fields’ reputation was bruised in 2006 when he was involved in the trial of controversial private investigator Anthony Pellicano.

In 2008, Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegal wiretapping and running a criminal enterprise. Fields was questioned by federal investigators about his use of Pellicano in his legal practice. He denied knowledge of any illegal activity.

Fields, also known as Bertram, was a prolific author, having written books about King Richard III and his portrayal as an evil English ruler and whether Shakespeare was the author of the plays for which he is credited.

“There was no downtime in the world of Bert – multi-book author, ballroom dancer, singer, chef, Shakespearean expert and, of course, fantastic lawyer,” said Dustin Hoffman. in a press release. “He was a brilliant Renaissance man…and yet he still had time to be an amazing, kind friend.”

Fields was born on March 31, 1929 in Los Angeles. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, he also edited the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

He served in the US Air Force during the Korean War. He then began practicing law and taught at Stanford Law School and taught at Harvard.

Fields also had a turn on the small screen, starring in an episode of “Dragnet” as a prosecutor.

After law school, he married his college girlfriend, Amy Markson, with whom he had his only child. They then divorced.

In 1955, the attorney met his second wife, model Lydia Menovich, while working at a Beverly Hills law firm where he was handling his divorce. She died of lung cancer in 1986.

Years later, Michael Ovitz tried to set up Fields with his close friend Guggenheim, but the attorney didn’t like blind dates. Nevertheless, the couple met in 1990 and got married in 1991.

Fields is survived by his wife, a renowned art consultant, as well as his son, James Elder Fields, and his grandchildren Michael Lane Fields and Annabelle Fields.