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|Born||Paula Sue Kauffman
December 12, 1946
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
Wagner was born Paula Sue Kauffman in Youngstown, Ohio. Her mother, Sue Anna (née Shofstall), was a news magazine editor from Oklahoma, and her father, Edmund Jamison "Ned" Kauffman, Jr., was a business owner.
In her early career in New York, Wagner "played several ensemble parts in the 1971 production of Lenny [the play], and her first marriage, to the set designer Robin Wagner, brought her into the industry’s A-list circles; she was at Robin’s side when the director Michael Bennett shared ideas for A Chorus Line".
Wagner was a talent agent at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, spending 15 years representing some of the top Hollywood actors, including Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Val Kilmer, Demi Moore, Liam Neeson, Robert Towne, and Kathryn Bigelow. In 1993, she launched Cruise/Wagner Productions (C/W) with her former CAA client Tom Cruise. For the next 13 years, Cruise and she produced a wide range of films that earned numerous awards, widespread critical praise, and global box office success. The first film released under the C/W banner was the international hit Mission: Impossible, the success of which brought the company the 1997 Nova Award for Most Promising Producers in Theatrical Motion Pictures.
C/W went on to produce such critically acclaimed films as The Others, The Last Samurai, Vanilla Sky, Without Limits, Shattered Glass, Narc, Elizabethtown, and Ask the Dust, as well as Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds (which Wagner executive produced). C/W was responsible for the original Mission: Impossible film trilogy (Mission: Impossible 2 and Mission: Impossible III). In all, films produced by C/W earned more than $3 billion in worldwide box office receipts.
Wagner was co-owner of United Artists Pictures, (along with Cruise and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). She was the company's chief executive officer from 2006 to 2008. During her tenure, Wagner orchestrated relationships with some of the top talents in the business, including Oscar-winning screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Paul Haggis, and Steven Zaillian, and Academy Award nominee Guillermo del Toro. UA released the Robert Redford political thriller Lions for Lambs and the World War II thriller Valkyrie, directed by Bryan Singer and starring Cruise.
She continues to work as a film producer and studio executive. She develops films, theatre, and television through her production company Chestnut Ridge Productions (CRP). One of its projects is the Broadway theatrical production of The Heiress starring Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn and directed by Moisés Kaufman; it opened in the fall of 2012. She also produced the Broadway premiere of Craig Wright’s acclaimed play Grace, directed by Dexter Bullard and starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington, and Ed Asner. The show opened October 4, 2012, at the Cort Theatre.
For television, she was an executive producer of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Lifetime original movie FIVE.
Prior to her career as an agent and producer, Wagner was an actress. She performed on Broadway and off-Broadway and was a member of the Yale Repertory Theatre. She is also a published playwright, co-authoring the play Out of Our Father's House.
Wagner serves on the Board of the National Film Preservation Foundation through the Library of Congress, Film Forum in New York and Carnegie Mellon University (lifetime member), where she received her degree and is an adjunct faculty member in the Master in Entertainment Industry Management program through the Heinz College. Wagner is a member of the American Cinematheque's Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Wagner will teach a course at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television titled “Stage to Screen”. She is also an adjunct professor at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television (Practical Realities of Film Industry).
Wagner has lectured in the US and abroad, including at University of Southern California Film School and New York University Film Schools, Youngstown State University Business School, the American Film Institute, the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, the Harvard Business School, and DePaul University. She was a commencement speaker for the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University and a keynote speaker of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Honors and awards
Wagner was honored by Premiere magazine with the Women in Hollywood Icon Award in 2001. The following year she was featured in Bravo's Women on Top, a documentary which profiled exceptional women in entertainment.
In 2004, Cruise and she were honored by Daily Variety as Billion-Dollar Producers. That same year, Wagner and Cruise received the UCLA/Producers Guild of America Vision Award.
In 2006, Wagner received the Sherry Lansing Award from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
In 2012, Wagner was honored at the 38th Deauville American Film Festival, which ran from August 31 to September 9 in Normandy, France.
In 2012, Wagner executive produced Tony-nominated The Heiress and in 2014, Mothers and Sons, nominated for best new play.
- "Officers, Board Members & Staff - Producers Guild of America". Producersguild.org. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Healy, Patrick, "Hollywood Player Joins the Club on Broadway", New York Times, November 1, 2012. "Paula Wagner turns to producing on Broadway." Retrieved November 4, 2012.