WHEN Harvey and Bob Weinstein were looking last year for a lawyer to take their side in an ugly divorce from Michael D. Eisner of the Walt Disney Company, there was only one person they wanted: Bert Fields, who had been the bane of the Weinsteins' existence in other negotiations.
"We'd been on opposite sides a couple of times, and he was incredibly effective, and we ended up admiring him," recalled Harvey Weinstein, the co-founder and co-chairman of Miramax Films. "In the entertainment business, walking into litigation without Bert Fields is like walking into the Arctic without a jacket."
In a town where youth often trumps experience and many careers last no longer than an opening weekend, Mr. Fields, 76, remains one of the most influential entertainment lawyers ever to practice inside the 405 freeway. He has represented clients from Edward G. Robinson to Tom Cruise, from Michael Jackson to Madonna, from Mike Todd to Brian Grazer. Just last week the William Morris Agency hired him to demand a retraction from The New York Post, whose Page Six column has run a series of gossip items claiming the talent agency is in financial trouble. Mr. Fields dispatched a fiery letter to the newspaper on Tuesday, and later in an interview threatened to sue for libel. A spokesman for The Post said that because it is a legal matter, the paper had no comment.
One major reason Mr. Fields remains hot in Hollywood after five decades - while other powerful figures like Mr. Eisner, Sherry Lansing and Michael Ovitz may be nearing the end of their shelf life - is that he is always ready to go to court if a dispute cannot be negotiated. He has legendarily never lost a trial.
The Weinsteins hired Mr. Fields because "he's incredibly intelligent," said Harvey Weinstein, "and the fact that he never loses is always a good thing." It also didn't hurt that Mr. Fields had represented Jeffrey Katzenberg, a former Disney studio chief, when he won more than $250 million from the company in 1999. That trial left Mr. Eisner, the Disney chairman, embarrassed and weakened