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Jul 13, 2012, 4:24 PM
Richard D. Zanuck, producer of such films as Tim Burton's motion-capture Alice In Wonderland (2010), died Friday of a heart attack at his Beverly Hills home. He was 77.
"Alice in Wonderland" producer Richard Zanuck dies
His career also included Best Pictures Oscars for The Sting and Driving Miss Daisy, in addition such blockbusters as Jaws.
Zanuck was one of Hollywood's most highly acclaimed and successful independent producers. His hits also included The Verdict, Cocoon and Deep Impact.
Zanuck earned numerous awards and citations in filmmaking career. Among them, perhaps the most significant was the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, bestowed upon him and long-time associate David Brown in 1991. This accolade recognized Zanuck as "a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production." A precedent-setting win and personal milestone as well, this particular Thalberg Award made him the only second-generation recipient ever, in company with his father, Darryl F. Zanuck.
Only one year earlier, he and his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, took home an Oscar as producer of Driving Miss Daisy, for which he also received a Golden Globe Award, The National Board of Review Award and Producer of the Year honors from the Producers Guild of America. Zanuck's Driving Miss Daisy award set another industry precedent -- making Richard and Darryl the only father and son in motion picture history to both win Best Picture Oscars.
As head of his own production entity, The Zanuck Company, in which he was partnered with his wife, Lili, Zanuck continued a successful career forged on a solid foundation.
Richard Darryl Zanuck was born on December 13, 1934 in Los Angeles. Upon graduation from Stanford University and military service as an army lieutenant, he joined his father as a story and production assistant on two Twentieth Century Fox films, Island in the Sun and The Sun Also Rises. At age 24, he made his debut as a full-fledged producer with the feature film Compulsion, which went on to win the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the ensemble work of stars Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman. He followed that up with Sanctuary, based on the William Faulkner novel, and with The Chapman Report, directed by George Cukor.
At 28, Zanuck was named president of Twentieth Century Fox and became the youngest corporate head in Hollywood annals. During his eight years at the helm, the studio recaptured the luster of its heyday and received an unprecedented 159 Oscar nominations. Three of the films, The Sound of Music, Patton and The French Connection, went on to win Best Picture of the Year Oscars. Other successes included the Planet of the Apes series, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and M*A*S*H.
Zanuck subsequently moved from Fox to become senior executive vice-president at Warner Bros., where he and soon-to-be partner David Brown oversaw production of such box office hits as The Exorcist and Blazing Saddles.
With the formation of the Zanuck/Brown Co. in 1971, one of the motion picture industry's most distinguished and successful production companies was born. Over the ensuing decade and a half, Zanuck/Brown was responsible for such critical and box office hits as Jaws, a triple-Oscar winner and Best Picture nominee; Jaws II; The Sugarland Express, Best Screenplay winner at the Cannes Film Festival, and one of Steven Spielberg's early directorial efforts; The Sting, winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture; and The Verdict, nominated for five Academy Awards. Along with Lili Fini Zanuck, Zanuck/Brown also produced the double-Oscar winner Cocoon, and its sequel, Cocoon: The Return.
The Zanuck Company, formed in 1988, scored a phenomenal success with its debut production, Driving Miss Daisy. Nominated for nine Academy Awards and winner of four, including Best Picture, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play-turned-feature film grossed in excess of $100 million at the domestic box office, and with its cost of $5 million, now ranks as one of the most profitable releases in Warner Bros. history.
Zanuck followed up the major success of Driving Miss Daisy with the critically acclaimed Rush, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric, based on the bestselling book by Kim Wozencraft. The film represented the directorial debut of Lili Fini Zanuck, and its score by Eric Clapton became one of the most acclaimed of 1992.
Other producing credits with Lili Fini Zanuck include Rich in Love, which reunited the Driving Miss Daisy creative team of the Zanucks with director Bruce Beresford and writer Alfred Uhry. Wild Bill, Walter Hill's fact-based look at the legendary frontiersman Wild Bill Hickok starring Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges, won widespread critical acclaim, as did Mulholland Falls, a drama set in the 1950s about a team of elite Los Angeles police officers with an all-star cast, including Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith and John Malkovich.
Zanuck's release, Deep Impact, for DreamWorks SKG and Paramount, grossed close to $250 million in the worldwide marketplace, making it the first bona fide blockbuster of the 1998 summer season.
The Zanuck Company joined forces with Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood to produce True Crime, a suspense thriller based on Andrew Klavan's bestselling novel, in which Eastwood also starred and directed for Warner Bros. release. In collaboration with HBO, the Zanucks were developing The Decalogue, consisting of 10 one-hour films, each based on one of the Ten Commandments of the Bible, set in contemporary Los Angeles.
The Zanuck Company produced Yes Man, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
More recently, Zanuck produced The Book of Eli.
Richard D. Zanuck is survived by his wife Lili Fini Zanuck, sons Harrison and Dean, and nine grandchildren.
[Via The Hollywood Reporter -- www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/producer-richard-d-zanuck-dead-349085]
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Jul 13, 2012, 4:25 PM)