Producer Laura Ziskin Has Died
1950-2011 Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Producers Guild
Born in 1950 in Southern California, Ziskin was not one of those people who fell into film after trying other walks of life; she went to the University of Southern California specifically to study film. From there, she wrote on game shows and worked for producer Jon Peters, eventually being associate producer on his 1978 film "Eyes of Laura Mars." It was her first producer credit.
Soon, she stopped working for Peters and began producing her own films, including "Murphy's Romance" and "No Way Out." But her biggest hit of that time period was "Pretty Woman," which she executive produced. And like almost her early films, she was the only woman producer on the picture, earning her the distinction of being one of the prominent female producers of her era, which included Sherry Lansing and Kathleen Kennedy.
In the 1990s, right around the time she produced "To Die For," a movie that established Nicole Kidman not as just a beauty but as a major actress, Ziskin became president of Fox 2000, a newly established film department at Fox that tackled more challenging fare. During her tenure, she was responsible for (among others) "Fight Club" and "The Thin Red Line," nervy, challenging films that are much harder to imagine being made at a studio today. Just the trailer for "Fight Club" seems just about unthinkable in today's brand-heavy studio climate:
Then came Spider-Man. We forget this now because of how lucrative the franchise became, but at the time there were considerable questions. Tobey Maguire wasn't a huge name, Kirsten Dunst had never had a hit, and Sam Raimi wasn't a major Hollywood director. (James Cameron, among others, had tried and failed to get the property off the ground years ago.) $2.5 billion worldwide over three films later, the whole thing turned out fine: