Brad Grey, who led Viacom’s Paramount Pictures for a dozen years and left a rich legacy at the studio, passed away on Sunday evening following a battle with cancer. He was in his home in Holmby Hills, California with his family by his side. He was 59 years old.
“Brad Grey was an extraordinary talent with a passion and gift for storytelling that won’t be forgotten,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “He has left an incredible legacy at Paramount and across the entire entertainment industry, from the beloved hit franchises he developed for both film and television, to the countless individuals he mentored and supported throughout his career. All of us at Viacom and Paramount mourn his passing, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Grey’s commitment to delivering poignant, compelling stories to audiences around the world bolstered the 105-year-old studio’s deep library with films across many genres. Starting with the smash hit Transformers in 2007, Grey guided Paramount into the franchise era with the original Paranormal Activity and continuations of the classic Mission: Impossible and Star Trek series. The studio complemented these releases with a parade of must-see standalone films, including the cerebral Interstellar, the gripping World War Z, and the gonzo Wolf of Wall Street.
Aside from box office success – eight of Paramount’s 10 top-grossing films came over Grey’s tenure – this varied slate earned many accolades for the studio, including at least one Academy Awards Best Picture nominee in 11 of Grey’s 12 years. Most recently, Paramount earned a pair of Oscars in February: Viola Davis took Best Supporting Actress for her work in the widely hailed adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences, while the gorgeous Arrival earned the award for Sound Editing (both earned Best Picture nominations). At the 2008 Academy Awards, Paramount’s No Country for Old Men won four Oscars – Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
“All of us at Paramount are deeply saddened by the news of Brad Grey’s passing,” said current Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “He was at the helm of the studio for over a decade and was responsible for so many of the studio’s most beloved films. I was proud to call Brad a friend, and one I greatly admired. He will be missed by us all, and left his mark on our industry and in our hearts.”
Paramount evolved under Grey’s leadership, acquiring DreamWorks SKG and signing a distribution agreement with Marvel. More recently, the studio re-launched Paramount Television, producing Grease: Live, a critical and ratings success for Fox. The division continues to crank out hits, gaining momentum with 13 Reasons Why for Netflix, Shooter on USA Network, and Berlin Station for Epix, among others.
“We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our friend, Brad Grey, whose tremendous kindness and talent inspired so many of us in the entertainment industry,” said Viacom Founder and Chairman Emeritus Sumner Redstone and Non-Executive Vice Chair of the Board Shari Redstone in a statement. “His vision and leadership at Paramount Pictures brought iconic films and programs to audiences around the world.”
Grey joined Paramount in 2005, ascending to the top of Hollywood after more than two decades in the industry. He was a producer and a talent manager, co-founder of Plan B Entertainment and partner at Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, a venture so venerated that Forbes called it, “Hollywood’s most successful management and production firm.”
It was Grey who, working with show creator David Chase, helped pushed The Sopranos – the HBO classic largely credited with igniting the so-called new golden age of television – into production even after all the broadcast networks had rejected it. He also produced award-winning series Real Time with Bill Maher and The Larry Sanders Show. His success in television ran deep: he is a multiple Golden Globe, BAFTA, PGA and Emmy winner, as well as a four-time recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award.
In addition, Grey acted as a movie producer, with credits for Academy Award-winner The Departed and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Born in The Bronx and raised on Long Island by a garment salesman before attending the State University of New York at Buffalo, Grey’s was a story as American as it was Hollywood. It was while attending SUNY Buffalo that Grey met industry legend Harvey Weinstein, who at the time was a local concert promoter. He would go on to work for Weinstein after graduation, signing the comedian Gary Shandling and others before moving west and eventually teaming up with Bernie Brillstein.
“I knew Brad for over 40 years,” Weinstein wrote. “He started out as me and my brother’s assistant and within six months it was clear that we should be working for him and not the other way around. He was destined for great things in this business, but more importantly on a personal level, I knew him as a family man and nothing was more important to him than that. My condolences to his family and he will be missed.”
As Grey’s success and profile mounted, he remained generous with his time and influence, serving on UCLA’s Executive Board for the Medical Sciences, the USC School of Cinema-Television Board of Councilors, the LACMA Board of Trustees, and the board of directors for Project A.L.S., Kipps Schools and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Grey is survived by his wife Cassandra Grey, their son Jules, his three grown children Sam, Max and Emily from his marriage to Jill Grey, his mother Barbara Schumsky, his brother Michael Grey and his sister Robin Grey.