George Hedges, 'Indiana Jones of Hollywood lawyers'

Hedges died Tuesday morning at home in South Pasadena of melanoma. He was 57. He was a leading Hollywood lawyer and also made a name for himself as an archaeologist. The Hollywood Reporter:

He represented everyone from Mel Gibson to Simon Cowell to David Lynch, as well as the film and television academies and companies like Fox, Activision and Fremantle. His reputation among entertainment lawyers was as a tough but fair multitasker who could navigate just about any type of industry dispute--from complex profit participation cases to producer-credit squabbles--without missing a beat.

Our favorite Hedges case was in 2007 when he took the lead in extricating superagent Ed Limato from ICM and paving the way for Limato to join William Morris, a task many thought impossible given the big non-compete clause and bigger personalities involved....

Tomorrow's L.A. Daily Journal leads it this way:

George R. Hedges, entertainment litigator, archeologist, musician and all-around Renaissance man, who, in addition to his thriving practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, helped discover the lost Arabian city of Ubar, has died. He was 57....

Archeology was Hedges' passion, and he inspired in his friends an image of what a real-life Indiana Jones would be like. Armed with bachelor's and master's degrees in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, Hedges went on several expeditions to the Middle East to discover the fabled lost city of Ubar, a stop along the ancient Arabian frankincense trail dating back to 2800 B.C.

Determined to find evidence of the city, Hedges and a team of archeologists used the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to take thermal images of Yemen and the surrounding area, which revealed traces of camel routes that all converged in one place and unearthed 65 new archeological sites.

The discovery was named one of Time magazine's "Top 10 Science Stories" of 1992 and was the subject of a PBS documentary that Hedges helped produce.

The Daily Journal sums up his legal career this way:

"Wherever you talk to people in the entertainment industry, everybody respects him," Quinn Emanuel partner John Quinn said. "And this is an industry where people hold grudges, and egos can get in the way. Nobody ever would say that about George Hedges."

Hedges joined Quinn Emanuel as a name partner in 1998, when the firm had fewer than 100 lawyers and no entertainment practice to speak of, partner Bill Urquhart said. Quinn and Urquhart realized they were a Los Angeles firm not tapping into the most prominent industry in the city - Hollywood - and recruited Hedges from his firm Hedges & Caldwell (now Caldwell Leslie & Proctor) to make it rain stars.

"George helped us become what we are now," Urquhart said.

The entertainment law veteran represented an A-list roster of clients, including Mel Gibson, Leonard Nimoy, director David Lynch, producer Robert Cort and agent Ed Limato.

"He had an encyclopedic knowledge of all the issues that impact us," said Tom Hansen, an entertainment lawyer at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman, who met Hedges on their first day together at USC Gould School of Law in 1975.

Hansen said he quickly became friends with Hedges, an "East Coast preppy who looked like a rumpled college professor."

After graduation, Hansen joined full-service entertainment firm Kaplan, Livingston, Goodwin, Berkowitz & Selvin and recruited Hedges once his friend completed a clerkship with Judge Lawrence T. Lydick of the U.S. Central District Court.

In his nearly three decades in the entertainment industry, Hedges represented everyone from writers and actors to producers and directors.

In the late '90s, Hedges led David Lynch to a $6.5 million verdict against CiBy 2000, a French production and distribution company that violated a "pay or play" contract against the cult film director. Lynch v. CIBY 2000, CV97-9022 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 13, 1998).

"Clint Eastwood can say, 'Go ahead and make my day,'" Lynch said in an interview. "George can say that without guns or fists but with legalese."

One of Hedges' favorite achievements, colleagues said, was his role in getting Hollywood agent Ed Limato - whose clients include actors Denzel Washington and Steve Martin - released from an employment contract with International Creative Management that would have forced Limato into premature retirement and robbed him of his client base.

"George, frankly, saved my career," Limato said in an interview Wednesday. "He said to me, 'I can't let them do this to you, we're going to win this.'"

Hedges' top legal priority was far from the red carpet. For more than 20 years, Hedges fought to reverse the death sentence of Adam Miranda, a man convicted of double murder, on the grounds that the prosecution withheld another man's confession to the second murder that could have exonerated Miranda of the charge that ultimately placed him on death row in the 1980s.

The decades of pro bono work paid off in May 2008, when the California Supreme Court unanimously voted to invalidate Miranda's death sentence, giving him life in prison instead.

"That was the thing he was far and away most proud of," Urquhart said. "The concept of saving somebody's life - how much better can you get?"

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