Gilbert "Gil" Cates, Academy Awards producer, founder of Westwood's and the founder and former dean of UCLA's Theater, Film and Television school, died Monday evening. He was 77.
Cates was found in a parking garage on the UCLA campus around 6 p.m. Monday, according to the coroner's office. Responders were unable to revive Cates and the coroner's office is investigating the cause of death.
In addition to 14 years of Oscars broadcasts, Cates produced and directed for the stage and film. He was serving as the Geffen Playhouse's producing director and treasurer-secretary of the Directors Guild of America when he died.
"Our entire TFT community is overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of our beloved mentor, colleague and friend,'' said Teri Schwartz, the current dean of UCLA's Theater, Film and Television school. Cates founded the school and served as its dean from 1990-1998. He was a faculty member when he died.
While serving as dean, Cates opened the in Westwood in 1995 after the building was donated to the school the previous year. After closing for two years of renovations, the theater reopened in 2005. The playhouse began its sixteenth season this fall. In a statement released Tuesday, representatives from the Geffen Playhouse said Cates "was our founder, our leader and our heart."
“Gil has always referred to the staff of the Geffen Playhouse as his second family,” said Frank Mancuso, chair of the Geffen Playhouse board. “And it is as a family that we mourn this tremendous loss. Gil built this theater and he will forever be at the center of it – we honor his life by continuing the fulfillment of his dream. As my dear friend Gil would no doubt say, ‘onward and upward with the arts.’”
Cates is credited with revamping the Academy Awards, hiring comedians such as Chris Rock and Billy Crystal to host the show, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He last produced the show in 2008.
"Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy,'' said Tom Sherak, president of the Academy. "He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family.''
Early in his career, Cates directed and produced on- and off-Broadway shows and films that received Oscar nominations.
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City News Service contributed to this report.