|Born||Laura Ellen Ziskin
March 3, 1950
San Fernando Valley, California, United States
|Died||June 12, 2011
Santa Monica, California, United States
|Spouse(s)||Julian Barry (divorced)
Alvin Sargent (m. 2010–2011; her death)
Laura Ellen Ziskin (March 3, 1950 – June 12, 2011) was an American film producer, known as the executive producer of the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman, and as the first woman to produce the Academy Awards telecast alone, producing the 74th Academy Awards in 2002 and the 79th Academy Awards in 2007.
Early life and education
Ziskin was born and raised in a Jewish family in the San Fernando Valley, California, the daughter of Jay Ziskin and Elaine Edelman. Jay was a psychologist and lawyer who died of prostate cancer, aged 77, on June 14, 1997.
After graduating from the University of Southern California USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1973, Ziskin started out writing for game shows, then became the personal assistant of Jon Peters. Ziskin quickly became a development executive, moving into feature films with Jon Peters' production company where she worked on the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand.
Fogwood Films and as an independent producer
Ziskin formed Fogwood Films with partner Sally Field in 1984, and produced Murphy's Romance. As an independent producer, Ziskin produced the thriller No Way Out for Orion Pictures. In 1988, Ziskin and partner Ian Sander produced two films featuring Dennis Quaid, the remake of D.O.A. and Taylor Hackford's Everybody's All-American.
Ziskin's success came with the hit comedy Pretty Woman in 1990, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, that Ziskin executive produced for Touchstone Pictures. The following year was difficult for Ziskin. On What About Bob?, Ziskin and star Bill Murray had spirited disagreements during production. Both that film and The Doctor were not as strong at the box office as Pretty Woman. A switch to Columbia resulted in Stephen Frears' Hero in 1992, a loose remake of 1941's Meet John Doe, for which Ziskin both produced and supplied the story. Ziskin directed her first short film in 1994, Oh, What a Day! 1914 and produced the Nicole Kidman tour-de-force To Die For in 1995, under the banner of Laura Ziskin Productions.
By the time that last film was in release, Ziskin had been appointed president of Fox 2000, one of several off-shoots 20th Century Fox developed to speed up their production and distribution. Since the formation of Fox 2000, Ziskin rounded up an impressive number of directors and writers. Among those released were Edward Zwick's Gulf War drama Courage Under Fire and the romantic comedy One Fine Day and Pat O'Connor's Inventing the Abbotts and the big-budget disaster film Volcano. Ziskin and Tom Rothman helped develop the script for The English Patient before studio head Bill Mechanic returned the rights to director Anthony Minghella, who then got it produced and distributed through Miramax.
Ziskin executive produced As Good as It Gets in 1997. The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and three acting nods, and its stars, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, took home the leading role Oscars in the acting categories.
After nearly five years on the job, Ziskin resigned from Fox 2000 in November 1999 and within a month had a production deal at Columbia Pictures. After being tapped to serve as the first solo female producer of an Academy Awards telecast in 2002, Ziskin returned to the big screen with the highly anticipated feature version of Spider-Man. The film was released on May 3, 2002 to good reviews from critics, went on to break box office records, and became the highest grossing film of 2002. The success of the film led to two sequels, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3. In 2002, Ziskin was also awarded the Crystal Award by Women in Film for her efforts at expanding the role of women in the entertainment industry.
Breast cancer activism
In February 2004, Ziskin was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, a disease doctors had repeatedly missed previously because of the diffuse type of cancer she had.
On May 28, 2008, Ziskin, along with Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Noreen Fraser Foundation and Ellen Ziffren, announced the creation of the charitable organization Stand Up To Cancer.
Ziskin died of breast cancer at her home in Santa Monica, California on June 12, 2011, aged 61. Her final films were the franchise reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Butler. She died a few months after filming ended on The Amazing Spider-Man, but three weeks before filming began on The Butler. In 2012, the Athena Film Festival created an award to be given in her honor: The Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually to a woman in the film industry whose leadership demonstrates vision and courage and sets a standard for other women to emulate.
When she was about 27, Ziskin married writer Julian Barry, relocating to Connecticut to help him raise his three children from a previous marriage. The two later had a daughter, Julia Barry. In 1978, she was the associate producer of The Eyes of Laura Mars. Ziskin was married to writer Alvin Sargent from 2010 until her death.
Filmography as producer and executive producer
- The Butler (2013)
- The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
- Spider-Man 3 (2007)
- The 79th Annual Academy Awards (2007) (TV)
- Stealth (2005)
- Spider-Man 2 (2004)
- Spider-Man (2002)
- The 74th Annual Academy Awards (2002) (TV)
- Ravenous (1999)
- As Good as It Gets (1997)
- To Die For (1995)
- Hero (1992)
- The Doctor (1991)
- What About Bob? (1991)
- Pretty Woman (1990)
- Everybody's All-American (1988)
- The Rescue (1988)
- D.O.A. (1988)
- No Way Out (1987)
- Murphy's Romance (1985)
- Gale Research Company (2002). Contemporary theatre, film, and television, p. 388. Gale Research Co., ISBN 978-0-7876-5112-1
- Aljean Harmetz (June 13, 2011). "Laura Ziskin, Producer of 'Spider-Man' and 'Pretty Woman,' Dies at 61". The New York Times.
- Hyman, Paula; Moore, Deborah Dash (1997). Volume 1 of Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, p. 448. American Jewish Historical Society/Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0-415-91934-0
- Zeitchik, Steven; Nicole Sperling (June 14, 2011). "Laura Ziskin dies at 61; 'Spider-Man' producer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Staff report (June 21, 1997). "Jay H. Ziskin; Psychologist and Lawyer". Los Angeles Times. June 21, 1997.
- Miller, Gabriel (2000). The films of Martin Ritt: fanfare for the common man. Univ. Press of Mississippi, ISBN 978-1-57806-277-5
- Canby, Vincent (August 14, 1987). Film: 'No Way Out,' Washington Drama. New York Times
- James, Caryn (March 18, 1988). Film; 'D.O.A.,' Racing Death. The New York Times
- Maslin, Janet (November 4, 1988). Film; The Glory Fades in 'Everybody's All-American.' The New York Times
- Benson, Sheila (March 23, 1990). 'Pretty Woman': Roberts' Legs, a Cold Heart. Los Angeles Times
- Brownfield, Paul (February 29, 2004). THE ICONOCLAST; What about Bill?; Murray doesn't play the game – which might be how he keeps his craft fresh. Los Angeles Times
- Maslin, Janet (July 24, 1991). Film; William Hurt as Doctor Whose Spirit Heals When He Falls Ill. New York Times
- Fox, David J. (September 4, 1991). [The Long, Not-So-Hot Summer Industry Hopes Year-End Films Revive Sagging Box Office.] Los Angeles Times
- Turan, Kenneth (October 2, 1992). A Reluctant 'Hero.' Los Angeles Times
- Schick, Elizabeth A. (1997). Current Biography Yearbook, 1997. HW Wilson Co, ISBN 978-0-8242-0938-4
- Quigley, Eileen S. (2006). International Television & Video Almanac. Quigley Pub. Co., ISBN 978-0-900610-78-3
- Waxman, Sharon (2005). Rebels on the backlot: six maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system, p. 257. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-054017-3
- McDonald, Kathy A. (September 20, 2002). Laura Ziskin: self-starting 'Spider-Man' producer stays real, seeks perfection. Variety
- Waxman, Sharon (January 7, 2007). She's Producing as Fast as She Can. The New York Times
- Littleton, Cynthia (June 12, 2011). "Producer Laura Ziskin dies at 61". Variety.
- The Laura Siskin Lifetime Achievement Award – Athena Film Festival http://athenafilmfestival.com/the-2013-laura-ziskin-lifetime-achievement-award/
- Schick, Elizabeth A. (1997). Current Biography Yearbook. HW Wilson Co., ISBN 978-0-8242-0938-4
- Laura Ziskin at the Internet Movie Database
- Laura Ziskin at AllMovie
- Laura Ziskin at the TCM Movie Database
- Laura Ziskin at Find a Grave
- Laura Ziskin profile via Stand Up To Cancer
- Lukeford.net Biography