Amid the glitz and glamour of the ceremony, there is the business of the Oscars.
Even outside of award season, lawyers play an enormous role in the internal workings of Hollywood. They navigate stars’ contracts, negotiate of behalf of billion-dollar studios, and litigate to protect the trademarks and copyrights of Tinseltown’s greatest creative assets.
As the Academy Awards approach—the award season’s grand finale—we decided to take a brief peek behind the curtain to recognise the legal minds who made possible the production of the season’s best critical films, as well as the award show itself.
David Quinto, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, has represented the Academy as outside counsel for years. He has fought copyright and trademark infringement, ticket scalpers, and statuette thieves and auctioneers.
A partner at Gendler & Kelly, Michael Gengler has multiple connections to this year's Oscars. Not only does he represent the actress with the record number of nominations, Meryl Streep, he is also counsel for host Steve Martin and District 9 director Neill Blomkamp.
Jared Jussim is the Deputy General Counsel for Sony Pictures, the studio tied for the most Academy Award nominations this year.
As well, if you recognise the image on the left, you may be familiar with Jussim's other Oscars claim to fame, as Dicky Fox in Jerry Maguire, which was nominated for Best Picture in 1997.
Another member of our list with multiple reasons to watch the ceremony on March 7th, legendary Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields. Fields told us he has at least three direct connections: he represents The Weinstein Company (returning this year with Inglourious Basterds), Hans Zimmer (nominated for his Sherlock Holmes score), and Dreamworks (the studio behind The Lovely Bones).
Fields is a partner at Greenberg Glusker.
David Scearce doesn't represent any talent or company taking the stage in this year's Oscars--he is one of the talent.
A federal government lawyer in his day-to-day life, he authored the screen adaptation of A Single Man, which is currently making the movie award rounds. Colin Firth is up for an Oscar for his portrayal of George Falconer in the film.
Co-founder of Hansen, Jacobson, Craig Jacobson is known as a premiere dealmaker in Tinseltown. His biggest deals include Ben Silverman's move to NBC, Katie Couric's CBS deal, and Sam Raimi's Spiderman directing stints.
Also on his record: Ryan Seacrest's lucrative negotiations with 'American Idol' and E!. Without Jacobson, the Oscar pre-show might be absent its biggest star.
This year's most talked-about newbie on the award circuit is Jeremy Renner, the actor behind The Hurt Locker's Staff Sergeant William James. The legal mind behind Renner? Patti C. Felker.
Felker is one of the partners in Felker Toczek Gellman Suddleson, a firm she helped to open in 2008 that is known for a cooperative approach to client (and talent) management. She has said that she 'will never give up on a deal. You develop that stomach, you understand what's at stake, who's got the leverage … and you have to be willing to keep pushing.'
When filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen were growing up in St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, Ron Meshbesher's was a mainstay in the press for his high-profile casework. Though they never met him before making their latest film, A Serious Man, which is set in their hometown, they gave an on-camera shout-out to the attorney, who is a partner in Meshbesher & Spence.
According to Meshbesher's account on Minnesota Public Radio, 'I got an email from the Coen Brothers asking whether or not they can use my name in the movie. I said I better read the script before I say yes. So I read the script and it didn't do me any harm so I agreed to do it.'
The Coen brothers shot two scenes of the film in Meshbesher's office, as well.
The film is a Best Picture nominee.
A partner at the entertainment boutique firm Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman, Bob Wallerstein is the man behind this year's Best Actor frontrunner Jeff Bridges.
On his role as an entertainment lawyer, he has said, 'At the end of the day, if the money doesn't come through, or the talent is double-booked, we're the ones who get the call asking, 'What do we do?'...We're dealing with the lawyers at the studios, the lawyers for the banks. And if we're doing our job properly, all of it is out of the public view.'
With nine nominations, The Hurt Locker is tied with blockbuster Avatar as the most-nominated film this year. The studio behind the film? Summit Entertainment.
While the independent studio has enjoyed enormous box office success with the Twilight series, these are its first Oscar nods--even without a statue, it's a winning season for the studio.
As Summit's General Counsel, Friedman is charged with mastering big time deals with a much smaller staff than the huge studios.
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