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by Matthew Hammett Knott
February 8, 2013 7:00 AM
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Heroines of Cinema: 10 Things You Really Should Know About Kathleen Kennedy

"E.T."
6. It’s not just about Spielberg and Lucas
Kennedy’s full producing resumé includes over 90 credits, for films that have gathered north of 120 Oscar nominations. Among her many hits for Amblin Entertainment are the Back to the Future films and Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear”. After leaving Amblin, she produced Clint Eastwood’s “The Bridges of Madison County”, M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” and David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, among many, many others.

7. She likes smaller films too
$14 million is positively micro budget by Kennedy’s standards, but that was the tab for 2007’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. Originally developed by Universal as a Johnny Depp vehicle, the decision to allow Julian Schnabel to make the film in French, starring the little-known Mathieu Amalric, made it a risky proposition. Nonetheless, it turned into a critical favourite and awards darling, including a surprising four Oscar nominations.

8. And supporting lesser-known filmmakers
Kennedy approached Marjane Satrapi, the Iranian-French co-director of “Persepolis”, with a view to acquiring the rights. Though Satrapi declined, Kennedy came on board as executive producer, securing production funds through an American distribution deal while leaving Satrapi and her fellow first-time director in full creative control. The end result? Awards and nominations everywhere from the Oscars to Cannes.

9. She doesn’t have a great record with female directors
Kennedy states that she is gender blind when it comes to working with directors, and her experience with Marjane Satrapi hardly leaves that in doubt. Nonetheless, she almost always works with powerhouse male directors, not challenging the status quo in Hollywood that rarely sees women hired to direct mega budget productions. The pressure should fall on all industry heavyweights - not just the women such as Kennedy and Sony chair Amy Pascal - to do more to encourage diversity behind and in front of the camera. But as several participants in Melissa Silverstein’s recent New York Times debate concluded, women are in dire need of powerful industry advocates - and Kennedy, who is also the mother of two teenage daughters, would be nothing if not a good place to start.

10. But watch this space
Kennedy has stated that she plans to turn LucasFilm into a fully fledged production company, and none can doubt her ability to make good on that promise. Incidentally, one of LucasFilm’s most high profile employees is Brenda Chapman, who joined the company to work on a mystery project after being controversially fired from Pixar’s “Brave” (of course, both companies are now owned by the same parent organisation). Meanwhile, the latest rumours circling Star Wars VII suggest that the franchise may relaunch with something entirely unprecedented but very much in the spirit of LucasFilm’s new boss - a female protagonist.

Matthew Hammett Knott is a London-based filmmaker and writer and contributor to Indiewire's Lost Boys blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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