Sam Mercer, Longtime Producer for M. Night Shyamalan, Dies at 69

Sam Mercer, the former head of Industrial Light & Magic and longtime producing partner of M. Night Shyamalan, has died at the age of 69, a spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap.

According to media reports, Mercer died on Feb. 12 from younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

“Sam and I started working together when I was in my mid-20s. He taught me that culture of a set comes from 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,” Shyamalan said in a statement.

A Massachusetts native, Mercer got his start in the film industry as a location manager on 1980s classics such as “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” He then joined Walt Disney Pictures as a production executive at the studio’s mature film labels Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures, overseeing the production of films such as “Dead Poets Society,” “Quiz Show” and “The Joy Luck Club.”

After leaving Disney, Mercer went into work as a full-time film producer, with his breakthrough hit being his first film with Shyamalan: “The Sixth Sense,” which grossed $672 million worldwide at the box office in 1999. Shyamalan and Mercer then went on to produce six more films together, including “Unbreakable,” “Signs” and “The Village.”

“He made every movie a family and I’ve tried to emulate that in every film since,” Shyamalan said. “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 OK. When he was around, that was always true.”

In the final years of his career, Mercer was selected by Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy to head the studio’s legendary visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic in 2015. Among the films that ILM worked on under Mercer’s leadership were “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Captain America: Civil War” and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.”

Deadline was first to report the news.

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