Sam Mercer, Producer on M. Night Shyamalan Movies and ILM Executive, Dies at 69

Sam Mercer, producer on several M. Night Shyamalan movies and former head of ILM, died Feb. 12 of younger onset Alzheimer’s in South Pasadena. He was 69.

Raised in Weston, Mass., he attended Occidental College and then started working as a location manager on 1980s classics including “Stripes,” “The Escape Artist,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Swing Shift,” “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “The Witches of Eastwick.”

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He joined the Walt Disney Company as a production executive, supervising films including “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Three Fugitives” and “Dead Poets Society.” He then became VP of motion picture production at Hollywood Pictures, where he oversaw releases including “Quiz Show,” “The Joy Luck Club,” “Born Yesterday,” “Swing Kids,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “Arachnophobia.”

Mercer then worked as an independent producer, starting with “Congo,” “The Relic” and “Mission to Mars.” After working with Shyamalan on “The Sixth Sense,” then went on to produce six more films together: “Unbreakable,” “Signs,” “The Village,” “Lady in the Water,” “The Happening” and “The Last Airbender.”

He also had production credits on “Jarhead,” “Van Helsing,” “Things We Lost in the Fire,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Heaven is for Real” and “The BFG.”

In 2015, he became head of Disney/Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, overseeing all four global locations.

“Sam and I started working together when I was in my mid-twenties. He taught me that the culture of a set comes from the top down. He led with kindness and showed me how to navigate pressure with grace. He was the best big brother I could have hoped for. He made every movie a family and I’ve tried to emulate that in every film since. He made me laugh and took care of me at the same time. He did this with everyone. I’ll never forget his perfectly neat desk, his gentle eyes, and his magical ability to convey that everything was going to be okay. When he was around, that was always true,” said Shyamalan in a statement.

Other colleagues remembered his decency, his work ethic, his love of people and his ability to make a difference.

His final project was executive producing “Concrete Cowboy” for his former assistant, Ricky Staub.

He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Director’s Guild of America and the Producer’s Guild of America.

He is survived by his son Miles, daughter Sierra and wife Tegan.

Donations may be made to Lorenzo’s House, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting families around the world impacted by younger-onset dementia.

A memorial will take place in the spring.

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