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Obit: Oscar Producer Gil Cates Has Died; Industry Reaction UPDATED

Obit: Oscar Producer Gil Cates Has Died; Industry Reaction UPDATED

Long time Oscar producer Gil Cates has died. He was 77.

For many years Emmy-winner Cates was the Academy Awards’ go-to guy; he produced the Oscars more than anyone else, 13 times. He first hired hosts Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart. His last Oscar telecast (as executive producer) was in 2008, and his last as producer was in 2006. He was a leader of the Directors Guild, serving in various executive and board positions, including president, and negotiating many guild contracts, and served for 12 years on the Academy board of governors as a member of the directors branch. Cates was a professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), and served as dean from 1990 to 1998.

Cates, a theater, film and television producer-director, directed I Never Sang for My Father, A Death in the Family, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, Oh, God! Book II and The Last Married Couple in America. Cates also founded the Geffen Playhouse. Born Gilbert Katz in New York City, he was the son of a dress manufacturer and attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he studied fencing. Phoebe Cates was his niece. He is survived by four children.

Statements on Cates’ passing from the Academy, Steven Spielberg and others are below.

AMPAS president Tom Sherak:

“Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy. 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.”


Steven Spielberg:

“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. 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.”


The Directors Guild recognized Cates with the Robert B. Aldrich Award in 1989, the DGA Honorary Life Member Award in 1991 and the President’s Award in 2005. DGA president Taylor Hackford gave this statement:

“There are few people in the history of the Guild who have matched Gil’s vision and influence on the organization and our industry.  There was no greater champion of the creative and economic rights of directors and their teams and no truer friend to the membership, board and staff of the DGA.  For more than fifty years, Gil has served the Guild — as president, as secretary-treasurer, as negotiations chair.  It’s impossible to think of a single issue debated, program launched or battle fought on behalf of us all that didn’t have his special touch in its crafting.  
“Gil Cates embodied this Guild.  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.”  


Steve Pond, who worked with me at Premiere on the Oscar beat, got to know Cates well from backstage at the Oscars. LAT’s The Envelope has more.

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