Gilbert Cates' Death: Hollywood Remembers the Director and Oscar Producer

1:28 PM PST 11/01/2011 by Michael O'Connell
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

UPDATED: Steven Spielberg and Steve Martin join the chorus of friends and colleagues speaking out about the late director and Oscar producer.

Following Tuesday's news of 14-time Oscar producer Glibert Cates' death at 77 years old, Hollywood has responded with remembrances of the veteran director and producer.

First to acknowledge his sudden passing was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy,” said Academy president Tom Sherak. "He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar  history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family.”

STORY: Oscar Producer Gilbert Cates Dies at 77

A two-term president of the Directors Guild of America, Cates was close with many of his peers, which Steven Spielberg pointed out in a statement.

“No one may ever again achieve what Gil Cates achieved in his contributions to the success of the Motion Picture Academy and the Directors Guild," Spielberg said in a statement. "In producing 14 Oscar shows for the Academy and leading the Directors Guild through challenging times and negotiations, he set a remarkable standard for dedication and excellence. He was the most liked person I knew and will be missed by all who knew him as a proud member of our industry and a great pal to everyone.”

Current DGA president Taylor Hackford echoed Spielberg's sentiments.

"Gil Cates embodied this Guild," he said. "Through his decades of service, he guided the Guild gently and charismatically and with great wisdom, and perhaps more importantly, he established what it meant to be a leader of this organization and the entertainment community. He was a fierce friend, an even fiercer negotiator and somebody you always hoped was on your side but respected even if he wasn't. Gil was one of the lights of this organization and one of the central reasons that I became involved in Guild service.  From the time I joined the Western Directors Council in 1996, Gil was a mentor to me, encouraging me to take leadership responsibility and providing guidance all along the way. I was honored to serve with him for these many years and will miss him greatly." 

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SAG president Ken Howard, secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino and national executive director David White also paid tribute to Cates.

“Gil was a great friend and a big help to me as I navigated my early days as president," Howard said in a statement. "He was helpful and wise and was quick to offer invaluable advice. He was a tremendous force in entertainment labor and will be missed."

One of Cates' many contributions to the industry was as founder and producing director of UCLA's Geffen Playhouse. He had most recently directed a production of Jeffrey Hatcher's A Picasso for the Geffen in 2007.

"Gil has always referred to the staff of the Geffen Playhouse as his second family” said Geffen chairman Frank Mancuso in a statement. “And it is as a family that we mourn this tremendous loss. Gil built this theater and he will forever be at the center of it -- we honor his life by continuing the fulfillment of his dream.  As my dear friend Gil would no doubt say ‘onward and upward with the arts.’”

Cates also founded UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, where he served as dean from 1990 to 1998. Sitting dean Teri Schwartz released a statement on behalf of the school.

"Our entire TFT community is overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of our beloved mentor, colleague and friend," she said. "Today we mourn our great loss but also celebrate Gil's extraordinary vision and countless contributions, not only to TFT as founding dean and distinguished professor but to the entertainment and performing arts industries and the education of our students, who benefited from his remarkable talent, insights, generosity, experience and wisdom. Our deepest condolences and love go out to Gil's beloved family at this very difficult time."

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Danette Herman, who has worked in various capacities on the Oscar show for 38 years, testified, “ Gil was a great producer, he treated everyone fairly, he was friendly to everybody, very respectful, and we always had a lot of fun working together.”

She recalled how in the months leading up to an Oscar show, Cates kept a big gong outside of his office. “Anytime, a presenter was confirmed to be on the show, he would go out and ring the gong and everybody would come running out of their office and then he would announce the name. He was very inclusive in that way,” she said. 

On Twitter, one of Cates' Oscar collaborators, former host Steve Martin, shared his condolences.

"So sorry to hear Gil Cates has died," Martin wrote. "He helmed two Oscar shows I hosted. He was delightful, wise, canny and unperturbed. A great fellow."

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