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Monday, June 13, 2011

MEMORIES
An Appreciation: Laura Ziskin, Hollywood Film Producer


A photo of my photo of Laura Ziskin during a press conference for the Academy Awards in February 2007.  Omar P.L. Moore
 

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
Mon
day, June 13, 2011

I didn't know Laura Ziskin but knew of her.  A fine film producer she was. 

I saw her name everywhere as a producer on the credits of numerous films, and about half of them were rather good films, too. 

"Spider-Man 2" is still the best superhero film ever made, and Laura Ziskin has her name on it as a producer.  Ms. Ziskin also has a producing credit on next year's "The Amazing Spider-Man". 

Ms. Ziskin also produced "No Way Out" (1987), a political drama I loved immensely.

Laura Ziskin was one of Hollywood's too-few-women-as-film producers, and one of the "quietly iconic" ones, if such a term makes sense.  She would have disagreed with that quoted statement, but she was one of the best. 

There's Sherry Lansing and the late Dawn Steel too, of course.  They solidly belong in the group of capable and highly talented film producers of the last three decades.  Both went on to become Hollywood film studio heads.  There's Gale Ann Hurd and the prolific Lauren Shuler Donner among other notable producers in Hollywood.

On the American independent side, there's Christine Vachon.  And producers like Celine Rattray and others who are beginning to make their mark as top producers in the U.S. film market, whether on the Hollywood or independent side.

I met Laura Ziskin just off-handedly in Southern California near the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood during Academy Awards weekend in 2007, (not 2008 as I had incorrectly stated on Twitter.)

There we stood alone, she and I.  Ms. Ziskin was very busy and had earlier answered umpteen questions at a press conference.  I had asked her several quick questions.

Ms. Ziskin produced the Oscar telecast in 2007 (and in 2002).  On both occasions she was the first and only woman to produce the Oscar telecast on her own. 

Despite the many annual Oscar critics and detractors, I sincerely remember that the telecast in 2007 was well-produced and wonderfully executed.  I'll say this -- it was a darn sight better than what the world saw earlier this year.

I had no idea that Laura Ziskin was ill with cancer in subsequent years.  I had not become privy to her personal struggle with breast cancer, which she valiantly fought but sadly lost last night in Santa Monica at the tender age of 61.

Laura Ziskin may not be known to some who go to movies these days but her producing resume of films have been seen by millions.

Who can argue with "Pretty Woman"?  Ms. Ziskin was the executive producer on the romantic drama, a smash hit at the worldwide box office -- totaling almost half a billion dollars in 1990. 

Even "What About Bob", a commercial flop, was often hilarious, with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss at each others' throats.

But at the end of the day it's not about the films Laura Ziskin produced.  It's about the lives she touched, the people she affected and influenced and the kind of person she was.  Her surviving spouse Alvin Sargent, the screenwriter, will share those sentiments and attest to her character better than I could even pretend to.

I didn't know Laura Ziskin but I won't soon forget how kind and sincere she was to me, even as she probably had 200 other more important things racing through her mind.

Laura Ziskin was too young at 61, too talented.  It's too bad, and sad, that she's gone.


Laura Ziskin flanked by then-Academy president Sid Ganis (left) and Academy Award telecast director Louis Horvitz in February 2007 outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.  Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com


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