In Memoriam: Laura Ziskin

by Melissa Silverstein
June 13, 2011 3:30 AM
3 Comments
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While most producers names are not known, Laura Ziskin is not one of them. Yesterday, at 61 she lost her battle with breast cancer. She was a woman who came into the business like other women in the 70s as a personal assistant not because that's a job that is a stepping stone, but because those were the only jobs that women could get in the 70s.

But things quickly changed and Ziskin was one of the women who broke down barriers for other women by her hard work. She was a great role model for all producers male and female.

Some of her accomplishments: In the 80s, she teamed with Sally Field and started a production company. She introduced us to a young Kevin Costner in No Way Out, she executive produced Pretty Woman, and gave Nicole Kidman one of her best roles in To Die For.

She also was the first head of Fox 2000 which has the nickname of Foxy Fox because it produces mid-level budgeted films targeted at the female market. Films she produced there include Courage Under Fire, One Fine Day and As Good as It Gets.

She helped usher in (for better or for worse) the age of the franchise film where the franchise became the star with Spiderman and made a ton of money for Sony on those films.

And she was the first solo woman to produce the Oscars.

But she knew the deal and she knew that it was a tougher for women. Here's a quote from her obit in the LA Times which appeared in the book Women Who Run the Show by Mollie Gregory. It's so good that it warrants a reprint:

Men have built the cities, made and defined the culture, interpreted the world. At no time in recorded history have women been culture-makers...Movies are arguably the most influential, important medium in the world. They have a tremendous cultural impact. Because women are now making movies, then women's ideas, philosophy, point of view will seep into that culture. And that's never happened in history. Ever, ever, ever. We can't even see the impact of that yet.

Over the last several years Ziskin has devoted herself to raising money for cancer research. Her work on Stand Up to Cancer will be one of her legacies as well as the that flying Spider nerd who is about to take flight again soon with Andrew Garfield in the title role.

Laura Ziskin dies at 61; producer of 'Spider-Man' film franchise (LA Times)

R.I.P. Laura Ziskin (Deadline)

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3 Comments

  • Gabrielle Burton | June 14, 2011 7:33 AMReply

    So what is the NYT thinking with this loaded language -- what a way to insult the deceased?:

    "When her marriage to the screenwriter Julian Barry ended in divorce, leaving her with a young daughter, Julia, Ms. Ziskin became a full-time producer and for a time dragged the girl from location to location."

    Would they have said that about a man, or instead perhaps praised his adventurous spirit and devoted parenting (i.e. not abandoning his child while going to work)?

    Bummer, Aljean Harmetz and NYT staff for not catching this slant against working moms and against the memory and impressive legacy of Laura Ziskin.

  • linda silverstein | June 14, 2011 1:12 AMReply

    Wow! the quote from Mollie Gregory is amazing and is going to take some time to think through. Thanks for printing it.

  • Akiva | June 13, 2011 11:25 AMReply

    This is so sad. I had the privilege of hearing her speak back in 2002 when I was a student at AFI. She was exuberant, beautiful and at the top of her game. Spiderman was coming out and she had just produced the Oscars. She told us the story of how she sneaked Woody Allen into the Oscars for his now famed monologue regarding New York and 9/11. I was just so proud. I am saddened that a bright light like this was snuffed out by cancer. It's a huge loss for women.

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