Sam Mercer, Frequent Collaborator of M. Night Shyamalan Movies, Including The Sixth Sense, Passes Away at 69

Renowned producer Sam Mercer, known for his prolific collaborations with director M. Night Shyamalan, has passed away at the age of 69. Mercer's legacy lives on through his unforgettable contributions to the film industry.

Published on Mar 15, 2024  |  08:19 AM IST |  33.7K
IMDb
Sam Mercer (IMDb)

Sam Mercer, a frequent collaborator of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, has passed away. He was 69. The director-producer duo had collaborated on eight films, including the spooky blockbuster The Sixth Sense in 1999. 

His wife, Tegan Jones, told The Hollywood Reporter that Mercer took his last breath on February 12 at his home in South Pasadena after a battle with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Amid the untimely death of the acclaimed producer, here's a look back at his life and legacy. 

Sam Mercer — Early life and Career 

Sam Mercer

Samuel Loring Mercer, a Weston, Massachusetts, native, attended the Groton School and Occidental College before making his way to Hollywood in the 1980s. He began as a location manager on films like Stripes, The Escape Artist, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Peggy Sue Got Married, Swing Shift, The Witches of Eastwick, and more. 

Mercer then joined Disney as a production executive, where he worked on films like Three Fugitives, Dead Poets Society, and Good Morning Vietnam. Later, he went on to become the VP of motion picture production at Hollywood Pictures, where he oversaw the release of films including Arachnophobia, The Joy Luck Club, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Born Yesterday, Swing Kids, and Quiz Show. 

Later on, Mercer produced Congo and The Relic at Paramount before connecting with Shyamalan on The Sixth Sense, distributed by Disney. Starring Bruce Wills and Haley Joel Osment in lead roles, the film raked in $673 million worldwide and became the No. 2 highest-grossing movie of 1999, standing only behind The Phantom Menace. 

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Sam Mercer (Center) with Shyamalan (Left) (IMDb)

The pair then went on to collaborate on several Shyamalan films, including Unbreakable (2000), Sign (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008), and The Last Airbender (2010), and on Shyamalan's co-written Devil (2010). 

Besides his collaboration with Shyamalan, Mercer’s other notable production credits include Jarhead, Van Helsing, Things We Lost in the Fire, Snow White and the Huntsman, Heaven is for Real, The BFG, and more. 

In 2015, Sam assumed the role of head of Industrial Light and Magic at Disney/Lucasfilm, where he oversaw all four global locations, including San Francisco, Vancouver, London, and Singapore.

However, he stepped down the next year from the position after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

Amid his too-soon departure from the disease, here's how his colleagues remember him:. 

Tributes for Sam Mercer — Shyamalan and others remember the esteemed producer 

Sam Mercer (Disney Interview)

Mercer’s longtime collaborator, M. Night Shyamalan, said in a statement, “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 OK. When he was around, that was always true.” 

Ricky Staub, Mercer's former assistant who later collaborated with him for his Concrete Cowboy in 2020, said about the celebrated producer, “Working for Sam changed the entire trajectory of my life. He showed me how filmmaking could be a transformative experience for a few and not just a job. It's the in-between moments I cherish the most: the walks to lunch, him jokingly calling me Ricky Bobby, the late nights when it was just us with pages of spreadsheets. In his passing, I am filled with immense gratitude that I got to experience, firsthand, this man’s beautiful legacy.” 

Sam Mercer, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, and the Producers Guild of America, is survived by his wife and his children, Miles and Sierra. 

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Donations in his name can be made to Lorenzo’s House, a non-profit dedicated to supporting families around the world impacted by younger onset dementia. 

A memorial ceremony for him will take place in the spring.

ALSO READ: How Is Regina King Coping Two Years After the Tragic Loss of Her Son Ian Alexander Jr.?

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FAQ

Who was Sam Mercer?
Sam Mercer was a renowned film producer known for his collaborations with director M. Night Shyamalan. He worked on numerous successful films throughout his career and made significant contributions to the film industry.

What were some of Sam Mercer's notable works?
Mercer's notable works include The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, and The Happening, among others. He also produced films such as Congo, The Relic, and Devil.

How did Sam Mercer pass away?
Sam Mercer passed away at the age of 69 after battling younger-onset Alzheimer's disease. His wife, Tegan Jones, confirmed that he died at his home in South Pasadena.

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