Uber-Litigator Bert Fields Wants to Represent Artificial Clients

Tom Cruise is not enough.
Jonathan Handel
Bert Fields speaking to Harvard Law Association at the Beverly Hills Bar

Bert Fields, the veteran entertainment litigator whose clients are often larger than life, is on a new path: he wants to represent clients in the afterlife.

“There is a huge value in the post-death rights of performers, actors [and] musicians,” the avuncular Fields told a crowd of about forty at a Harvard Law School Association meeting Tuesday night. “Nobody really knows the value [of those rights],” he added, alluding to technologies that allow reanimating deceased celebrities.

But Fields, whose clients have included the likes of Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, isn’t just looking to raise the dead. He’d also like some clients who never existed at all.

“I’m hopeful of representing synthespians,” said a grinning Fields in response to a question from this reporter, adding that he “planned to put an ad in The Hollywood Reporter for synthespian clients.”

For the record, we’d be writing this story even without that kind remark.

Cruise performs his own stunts, which Fields says “drives me nuts.” From that vantage point, perhaps synthespians are a safer bet, although SAG-AFTRA members might see things differently.

Earlier in his talk, which took place at the offices of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Greenberg Glusker partner cracked up the crowd with the story of how, early in his career, he had massaged the courtroom furniture in a gambit that persuaded a jury to acquit his (non-celebrity) client on a lewd conduct charge. The details themselves are a bit lewd for THR’s purposes, but the interested reader can learn more in a recent issue of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine.

Fields also told of representing famed Broadway producer David Merrick, who turned out to be a bit difficult. At an arbitration, Merrick was asked his occupation, a typical preliminary question that he found almost too insulting for words. “I don’t have to take this shit!" bellowed the impresario, and he fled the hearing room. Fields won the case anyway, but Merrick remained convinced that his own performance had sealed the victory.

A youthful and energetic 86, Fields seemed quite engaged with technology, speaking not just on synthespians, but also on the Sony hack, the future of books (“I worry,” he said), movies (“Maybe real movies are not over,” he remarked, noting that some Vine stars angle for the big screen) and future film release patterns.

On the latter, he predicted that most movie viewing “is going to be in the home,” and that we’d see the advent of $2 billion to $3 billion opening weekends.

Later, an audience member returned Fields to a personal note. “How do you deal with defeat?” she asked the attorney.

“I hate it!” he responded. “It’s very, very hard. You struggle through,” he added, before concluding with a smile, “I always find a way to blame it on someone else.”

Email: jh@jhandel.com