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.
R.I.P. Laura Ziskin (Deadline)