Thomas M. Sherak, a film studio executive who as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences helped expand its mission beyond the annual awarding of Oscar statuettes, died on Tuesday at his home in Calabasas, Calif. He was 68.
The cause was prostate cancer, his family said.
Mr. Sherak began his three-year term in 2009 as the Academy undertook a drive to build a museum of world film in Los Angeles. The project remains unfinished. The Academy also began an effort during his tenure to open itself to younger and more diverse members.
“The job is defined by personality,” Mr. Sherak said, and indeed he was known to have an expansive one, particularly as he helped shape several companies, including 20th Century Fox and Revolution Studios, during Hollywood’s gold rush decades after the discovery of video and DVD revenue.
At Fox, in the 1980s and ’90s, Mr. Sherak rose through the distribution ranks and oversaw the release of blockbusters like “Titanic,” “Alien” and “There’s Something About Mary.” Known for his candor and sly humor, he told of keeping the office nameplates of his fired bosses and arranging them in his office bathroom.
He later joined another Hollywood executive, Joe Roth, in operating Revolution, a powerful independent company nested within Sony Pictures, which released its movies. Revolution closed in 2007 after amassing a checkered collection of hits, among them “Anger Management,” “Daddy Day Care” and “Hellboy,” and misses, including the resounding flop “Gigli.”
Born in Brooklyn on June 22, 1945, Mr. Sherak took his first studio job at Paramount Pictures, in the regional distribution office. He later worked for General Cinema, a large theater chain, before joining Fox, where he became a stabilizing force in a studio that went through ownership and management changes.
When Mr. Sherak became president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the post had been viewed as largely ceremonial. He turned it into a full-time job, though an unpaid one. After leaving, he was a film consultant, advising Paramount and other companies.
One of his last tasks was to guide Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a Paramount release, through a difficult vetting by the industry’s film ratings board. The board ultimately rated the film R, though its sex scenes and abundant use of profanity had made it seem destined for the far more restrictive NC-17 rating.
Despite being weakened by cancer, which was discovered more than a decade ago, Mr. Sherak remained active in Hollywood charities and as the director of a city film board that has been striving to bring production back to Los Angeles.
He is survived by his wife, Madeleine; two daughters, Barbra Neinstein and Melissa Glasser; a son, William; a sister, Sandra Kalish; and 10 grandchildren.