New Zealand's first Oscar winner has died suddenly of a heart attack in America.

Lloyd Phillips, who was 63, worked on some of Hollywood's biggest films, including as executive producer of blockbusters Inglourious Basterds and The Tourist, Nikau Film Productions said.

Phillips was born in South Africa but grew up in Auckland, where he attended Auckland Grammar School.

He worked as a photo journalist before being selected to attend the National Film School in Britain in 1973.


In 1981 he won the best short film, live action Oscar for his action film The Dollar Bottom.

Later in his career he was executive producer of the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds starring Brad Pitt, and executive producer of The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

He died suddenly of a heart attack on Saturday evening in Malibu, Los Angeles, Nikau Film Productions said.

Weta Workshop director Sir Richard Taylor said Phillips was a "fantastic" person who he would visit every time he was in Los Angeles.

Phillips had a bad fall a couple of months ago, but before that he had never been fitter and healthier.

"It's come as a huge shock to everyone," Sir Richard told Radio New Zealand.

Phillips fought hard to bring work to New Zealand.

"[He was] always a tireless campaigner for films to be made here and for New Zealanders to go up and work from around the world," Sir Richard said.

Sir Richard said Phillips moved to Los Angeles when he realised he could make a career for himself there.

"He really started to see that he could make a real impact and make an incredible career if he was to go to the very heart if the film industry."