MARCH 15, 1913-JUNE 3, 2002

By Robert Evans
Updated December 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Lew Wasserman
Credit: Lew Wasserman: Lisa Rose/Globe Photos

Robert Evans remembers Lew Wasserman

Strangely enough, Mr. Wasserman was my first agent. Norma Shearer discovered me at the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She was Hollywood royalty, you know, and she wanted Lew Wasserman to personally handle me. He did it for Norma. So he was an agent when I knew him, and I’ll tell you how brilliant he was: The year ”Jaws” came out we flew back to Los Angeles from New York on an American Airlines flight together. We had been staying in the same hotel. ”Jaws” had opened the previous night and Lew had gotten the record of what the picture did, and he studied it theater by theater. It took him hours. And he said, ”I’ll tell you, within 5 percent, the business this picture will do domestically by just this one night.” And he was right. This is before all those machines could predict these things. Another story: When the Pope came to Los Angeles, Lew Wasserman was the man who hosted him. He was that important. He was the statesman of Hollywood!

I think his last 10 years were ones of frustration. I gather he sat in the Universal Studios dining room every day for lunch and people wouldn’t even come over to talk to him. Why? Because they didn’t know who he was. And yet he had the most brilliant career in Hollywood history. He was a very charitable person. And he built a lot of young people into important people in the industry. A great man. (Lew Wasserman, who ran MCA/Universal Studios from 1973 to 1995, died after a stroke in L.A.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Robert Evans produced such films as ”Chinatown” and ”The Marathon Man.” The 2002 documentary ”The Kid Stays In the Picture” is based on his life.