Michael Lynne died Sunday night at age 77. Lynne was Bob Shaye’s partner as they turned New Line Cinema from a small indie distributor to the maker of The Lord of the Rings, Austin Powers and Rush Hour franchises. His death will come as a shock to Lynne’s colleagues in film, art and philanthropic circles because of its suddenness. I’m still confirming details of his death, but here is what I have right now.
Lynne went to Columbia Law School with Shaye, and they became part of each other’s lives well before Lynne officially joined Shaye’s then-fledgling studio New Line in 1990 after working as outside counsel for the company. Shaye confirmed that Lynne had passed away and was very emotional about losing his longtime friend and partner so suddenly. Lynne is survived by his wife Ninah and daughter Elizabeth, who were by his side when he came back from the hospital to his home after taking a turn for the worse. This all happened just two weeks after Lynne’s oldest son, Jonathan, died suddenly.
Michael was a terrific guy, and we were an excellent combination,” Shaye told Deadline. “I played in a little bit of less controlled fashion and he was more controlled, but he had his zaniness also. We developed this secret operating system that worked well, and he was an incredible asset, partner and soulmate.”
Lynne was a Brooklyn-born tough attorney who met Shaye when he did contract work for Shaye and his fledgling film label on a retainer basis. He officially became COO of New Line in 1990, and shortly thereafter New Line went from a company best known for genre fare such as Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street to a hitmaking rock-‘n’-roll studio that hatched some of the highest-tenured executives in town right now. The rise came after Michael De Luca became one of the youngest presidents of production at a studio and created a string of edgy hits that included The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, Se7en and Boogie Nights and franchises such as Austin Powers and Rush Hour.
New Line had a most memorable golden period where executives were given a lot of latitude to make risky projects. Besides De Luca, the roster of executives who grew up in the New Line system and remain powerful Hollywood players includes New Line co-heads Richard Brener and Carolyn Blackwood, Warner Bros Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich, Legendary Vice Chairman of Worldwide Production Mary Parent and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley.