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Allison Shearmur, who died unexpectedly of lung cancer on Jan. 19 at age 54, had been an executive at Universal, Paramount and then Lionsgate, where she served as executive producer on the Hunger Games movies, and then moved into producing, serving as producer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, among others. Her friends and colleagues remember her.
Frank Marshall, producer:
“Alli was a terrific studio executive and producer, but more importantly, she was a best friend.Twenty years ago she talked me into coming aboard The Bourne Identity as a producer, and it changed my life. With her boundless energy, curiosity and passion for movies, I loved working with her. She was smart, creative, honest, fearless and most of all fun, always fun. She challenged you, but also listened and learned as she grew into a mighty producer. We spent many days and nights in the trenches, solving problems together and always making the movie better. We even named the Berlin hotel in Bourne Supremacy in her honor after she spent a week of cold, rainy nights crammed in a tiny trailer with us working out an action sequence, and never went home. I treasure the time spent with her as she became a member of my family and I hers. She was a joy to be around and always up for anything, but I drew the line at shopping. For me, life and making movies will never be the same again without her.”
Kathleen Kennedy, president, Lucasfilm:
“[My husband] Frank worked closely with Alli in making the Bourne movies when she was an executive at Universal, and during that time, we all became very close friends. We went to Alli and [her husband] Ed’s wedding and we’ve known their kids since they were born; it’s a relationship we’ve all had for 20 years. So my decision to bring her on to the Star Wars movies came out of my incredible respect for the work she was doing, how great she was with story. When she left as an executive to become a producer, I knew right away she would have the skills to make it.
“Alli was in every way my right arm. Her follow-through skills were second to none, and she had such an amazing attention to detail and a wonderful sense of story. Her role alongside me was watching every detail of these movies being made, which required lots of eyeballs on lots of things. She was just a remarkable partner.
“Everybody deals with these things in their own way, and she didn’t want to tell anybody [of her illness]. She confided in me in the beginning. What she loved more than anything was making movies. It was so important to her during her treatments to find a way to keep working. That’s what’s so incredible — she literally was in a visual effects session just last week. She worked tirelessly whenever she could. Every day I spoke with Alli, sometimes multiple times. We were constantly in touch on everything.
“She was so thrilled to be a part of these movies. She was just so much fun. She had such an incredible attitude, endless energy and a great way with people. Everybody loved her. She often was the person bringing consensus around difficult problems and issues. She could be tough but also just so honest and easy to deal with.”
Natalie Portman, who wrote and directed A Tale of Love and Darkness, which Shearmur executive produced:
“It’s hard to even write this because it means I have to acknowledge that one of the warmest, brightest, most energetic people I’ve ever encountered in this industry, is no longer with us. I was so lucky to have Alli exec produce my first film as a director. She built up my confidence, enveloped me in Jewish mommy warmth and made everything work, all the time. She would tell people when introducing me that I was ‘the first person to call her about a job’ after she left Lionsgate to go out on her own, as if I were doing her a favor, as opposed to the truth: that she was doing me the biggest favor. She gave her precious time, brilliant mind and generous spirit to produce a low-budget foreign film by a first-time director after making some of the biggest hits of our era. She held meetings in her kitchen, surrounded by her children’s beautiful artwork hung on a clothesline, and called me ‘Cookie,’ while giving the most incisive notes on script and edit. She was an inspiration as a woman who could lead so vigorously in her career and simultaneously be the most loving and involved wife and mother. She didn’t have a conversation with me ever that didn’t involve some mention about her wonderful husband, Ed, and her two children, Immy and Anthony. To them, I send all my love at this unimaginable moment.”
Woody Harrelson, who appeared in The Hunger Games movies:
“I learned long ago not to say no to Alli because she was always right, and I eventually ended up agreeing with her. I’m forever grateful for her advice and friendship over the years. She was a brilliant light who brought out the very best in everyone and made every project better. Alli was a truly great, powerful, loving person and I’ll miss her.”
Gary Ross, who wrote and directed 2012’s The Hunger Games:
“Alli called everyone Cookie. She had hundreds of friends, and even though we all had the same nickname, it felt personal to each of us. Because Alli didn’t have casual friendships. When she was with you, she gave you every ounce of attention she had — as if a casual encounter wasn’t enough. The grief is enormous, but all of us know that Alli squeezed every drop out of living. She was an example to us all.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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