Her ability to wrangle filmmakers, actors and studio executives in common purpose was cultivated in childhood, when she learned compromise as one of the celebrated Brecker Quads.
Allison Shearmur, a studio executive and independent producer who helped bring a string of box-office hits to the screen, including the “Bourne” franchise, the “Hunger Games” series and the yet-to-be-released “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” died Jan. 19 in Los Angeles. She was 54.
The cause was lung cancer, said her husband, Edward Shearmur.
Allison Shearmur, who died at UCLA Medical Center, had received the diagnosis in 2016 but disclosed it only to her family and closest associates as she continued working on movie projects, including “Rogue One,” an earlier installment in the Star Wars Anthology series, and “Solo.”
“She didn’t want to be defined by her disease,” Edward Shearmur said. “She felt that if people knew of this very difficult detail, it would overshadow everything else.”
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- Florida marks milestone in Everglades python control program VIEW
- Judge orders Vancouver, Wash., teen to start paying off $37M for starting Columbia Gorge wildfire
- Police say reported abduction was hoax
- Parents go to court to boot 30-year-old son from home
- The princes, the president and the fortune seekers
For 20 years Allison Shearmur maintained a high profile in Hollywood. She helped to oversee feature-film production at Universal Pictures before moving on to Paramount Pictures, where she was co-president of production, and Lionsgate, as president of motion-picture production, and then setting out as an independent producer.
Among the other prominent films she helped shepherd along were the Julia Roberts hit “Erin Brockovich”; “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with Brad Pitt; and the raucous “American Pie” sex comedies.
Beyond the studios, Ms. Shearmur collected contemporary art and photography and amassed an enviable wardrobe. Five feet tall in high heels, she was considered one of the best-dressed women in Hollywood. She even had her T-shirts tailored.
Her ability to wrangle filmmakers, actors and studio executives in common purpose was cultivated in childhood, when she learned to share and compromise as one of a celebrated set of quadruplets. Allison was Baby C, the third of the Brecker Quads, who were born in 1963 in Manhattan to great news-media fanfare.
Ms. Shearmur attended law school at the University of Southern California while also taking film classes. After getting her law degree, she was hired as an assistant at Columbia TriStar. From there she moved to a junior-executive role at the Walt Disney Co., and by 1998, she had joined Universal Pictures as a senior vice president for production.
That year, Ms. Shearmur asked filmmaker Tony Gilroy to help write a screenplay based on “The Bourne Identity,” Robert Ludlum’s best-selling 1980 spy thriller.
“It was a lackluster project” that was not generating much excitement in Hollywood, Gilroy said in an interview. He told Ms. Shearmur he was not interested, but she persisted, pushing him to commit two weeks to writing a script.
“She was so relentless,” he said. “She absolutely connived me into the two weeks.”
Two weeks, he said, turned into two years, and the project turned into a billion-dollar franchise for Universal.
She left Universal in 2004 for Paramount and, four years later, joined Lionsgate, where she produced the first two films in the “Hunger Games” series and served as an executive producer for the third and fourth installments.
She left the company in 2012 to become an independent producer. “However successful she was as a studio exec,” her husband said, “this was the moment in her career when she really blossomed.”
The first project she took on as a producer was the live-action “Cinderella,” directed by Kenneth Branagh and released in 2015.
The year before that release, Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, asked her if she would help produce “Rogue One.” It was during her work on that production that Ms. Shearmur learned she had lung cancer.
“When you see the success of the movie and complications of its production and the triumph of its reception, those things are to her credit,” said Gilroy, who helped write the script. “It’s as much her movie as anyone else’s.”
While undergoing treatment, Ms. Shearmur continued to work with Kennedy and Lucasfilm on “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Ron Howard and scheduled for release in May.
“That she won’t be able to see her work is unbearably sad,” Kennedy said.
Allison Ivy Brecker was born on Oct. 23, 1963, to Rhoda and Martin Brecker. Her mother was a schoolteacher, her father a lawyer. Allison was born after her siblings Lisa and John but before her sister Jodi.
The children grew up in Woodmere, New York, on Long Island, became known as the Brecker Quads and were cast in a series of television and print ads for Beech-Nut baby food.
Her sister Jodi Kahn said the deep affection the siblings felt for one another growing up made Allison Shearmur’s death all the more painful for them. “We told each other we loved each other constantly,” she said. “We loved to hold hands. It’s indescribable, the bond we had and the loss we feel.”
Ms. Shearmur attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1985, and then headed to the West Coast for law school.
She met Edward Shearmur, a British film composer living in Los Angeles, in 2000 on a blind date. They married about a year later.
In addition to her husband and Kahn, Allison Shearmur is survived by her sister Lisa Hartstein; her brother, John; her parents; and two children, Imogen, 15, and Anthony, 10.
Ms. Shearmur’s husband said that despite her cancer, she was working until the end. The day before she died, he said, Ms. Shearmur attended a meeting about visual effects for “Solo.” And on the day she died, while in the hospital emergency room, she asked her husband to bring a certain script for her to read. It had been written by her former assistant, and Ms. Shearmur wanted to help it find its way onto a screen.