Robert Lieberman, who directed films including Fire in the Sky and D3: The Mighty Ducks, episodes of The X-Files, Dexter and Criminal Minds and thousands of commercials, has died. He was 75.
Lieberman died July 1 in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer, his son, Nick Lieberman, who co-directed Searchlight Pictures’ Theater Camp, which hit the big screen this weekend, announced.
Lieberman helmed TV spots for such companies as McDonald’s, Hallmark and Oreo and worked with talent ranging from President Clinton, Ray Charles and Jerry Lewis to Michael Jordan, Anne Hathaway and Kenan Thompson. He received more than two dozen Clio Awards and, in 1979, the inaugural DGA Award for commercials.
Much of his work was done through Harmony Pictures, the company he founded with Stuart Gross.
In addition to Fire in the Sky (1993), starring D.B. Sweeney and Robert Patrick, and the hockey sequel D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996), starring Emilio Estevez, Lieberman helmed Table for Five (1983), starring Jon Voight and Richard Crenna, and All I Want for Christmas (1991), starring Lauren Bacall and Thora Birch.
At the University at Buffalo, Lieberman essentially founded the school’s film program and became the first UB student to graduate with a degree in film.
He worked as a video assistant with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and after coming to Los Angeles, the first telefilm he directed revolved around pro football: 1980’s Fighting Back: The Story of Rocky Bleier, starring Robert Urich as the war hero and Pittsburgh Steelers running back.
Lieberman also helmed a first-season episode of thirtysomething in 1987 and went on to direct 19 pilots, 16 of which went to series, including Gabriel’s Fire, Strong Medicine and The Dead Zone.
Lieberman was married to actress Marilu Henner from 1990-2001, and they had two children, Nick and Joseph. (Henner’s first husband, actor Frederic Forest, died in June.)
Survivors also include his third wife, Victoria, whom he married in 2010; two children, Erin and Lorne, from his first marriage; his son-in-law, producer Trent Othick; his stepdaughter, Kristen Konvitz, a UTA agent; and his sister, Fern.
In September, Lieberman returned to Buffalo to screen Fire in the Sky at a local theater. On the occasion, The Buffalo News asked him what he would tell aspiring filmmakers.
“My advice to people who are trying to get in the business is you’ve got to be absolutely fearless and relentless,” he said. “If you want it, you’ve got to want it with everything in your being, and then you have to pursue it with everything of your being.
“I wanted to be in this business, and now looking back over my whole career, I love that I spent my life in this business. I got to go to work and have fun: Do what I wanted to do, create what I wanted to create; wake up in the morning with blank canvases and go out and paint, and with somebody else’s money. It’s craziness, and I got to do it for over 50 years.”