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Richard D. Zanuck

Richard D. Zanuck

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Also Known As: Richard Darryl Zanuck, Richard Zanuck Died: July 13, 2012
Born: December 13, 1934 Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: executive, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though born into Hollywood royalty, producer Richard Zanuck frequently acted like a maverick, tackling offbeat, seemingly unfilmable projects and spinning them into box office gold. Zanuck began his career as the head of production for his father, legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck, at 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw such classics as "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), "Patton" (1970) and "The French Connection" (1971). But following a spate of costly failures, he lost his job and was forced out on his own in the early 1970s. Teaming with fellow Fox expatriate David Brown, he set up The Zanuck/Brown Company and had a huge hit with "The Sting" (1973), which paved the way for successful collaborations with Steven Spielberg on "The Sugarland Express" (1974) and "Jaws" (1975). He went on to produce such acclaimed films as "The Verdict" (1982), "Cocoon" (1985) - in partnership with wife Lili Fini Zanuck - and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), which earned him an Academy Award. Following a decade plagued by misfires like "Clean Slate" (1994) and "Chain Reaction" (1996), Zanuck returned to form with "Road to Perdition" (2002), and had continued success in collaboration...

Though born into Hollywood royalty, producer Richard Zanuck frequently acted like a maverick, tackling offbeat, seemingly unfilmable projects and spinning them into box office gold. Zanuck began his career as the head of production for his father, legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck, at 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw such classics as "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), "Patton" (1970) and "The French Connection" (1971). But following a spate of costly failures, he lost his job and was forced out on his own in the early 1970s. Teaming with fellow Fox expatriate David Brown, he set up The Zanuck/Brown Company and had a huge hit with "The Sting" (1973), which paved the way for successful collaborations with Steven Spielberg on "The Sugarland Express" (1974) and "Jaws" (1975). He went on to produce such acclaimed films as "The Verdict" (1982), "Cocoon" (1985) - in partnership with wife Lili Fini Zanuck - and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), which earned him an Academy Award. Following a decade plagued by misfires like "Clean Slate" (1994) and "Chain Reaction" (1996), Zanuck returned to form with "Road to Perdition" (2002), and had continued success in collaboration with Tim Burton on "Big Fish" (2003) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010). Thanks to both his pedigree and exemplary track record, Zanuck was an enduring figure in the Hollywood community who was both greatly admired and respected.

Born in Los Angeles on Dec. 13, 1934, Richard Darryl Zanuck was the youngest of three children born to Darryl F. Zanuck, the legendary studio chief of 20th Century Fox, and his wife, Virginia Fox. His father's prominence in the entertainment business assured his son a storybook childhood, including birthday parties attended by Shirley Temple and play dates with stars like Jack Palance. However, the opulence of his family's lifestyle did not make up for an undercurrent of turmoil that flowed between his parents, thanks to the senior Zanuck being a notorious philanderer with a well-worn casting couch. After studies at Harvard Military Academy and service in the U.S. Army, Zanuck returned to California to begin studies at Stanford University. While there, he began his tenure at Fox in the story department, and by 1956 he was vice president of Darryl F. Zanuck Productions, where he assisted his father on such hits as "Islands in the Sun" (1956), "The Sun Also Rises" (1957) and the epic World War II drama "The Longest Day" (1962).

During that time, Zanuck made his solo debut as producer on "Compulsion" (1959), a stark adult courtroom drama based on the real-life Leopold and Loeb case, with Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell as the ersatz killers and Orson Welles as their defense attorney. A modest success after netting Best Actor awards at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, the film was followed by two equally minor, but press worthy features, 1961's "Sanctuary," based on the stark novel by William Faulkner, and "The Chapman Report" (1964), which drew inspiration from the Irving Wallace novel about the Kinsey Reports. By the time of the release of "The Chapman Report," which was drastically re-edited after complaints from the Legion of Decency, Zanuck had moved to the executive suites at Fox, where he served as head of production from 1965 to 1970. Under his aegis, the studio netted 150 Oscars, including Best Pictures for "The Sound of Music" (1965), "Patton" (1970) and "The French Connection" (1971), and oversaw such box office hits as "Planet of the Apes" (1968), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "M*A*S*H" (1970).

Unfortunately, these windfalls were offset by numerous misfires, including such costly failures as "Doctor Doolittle" (1967) and "Hello, Dolly!" (1969). Meanwhile, still reeling from the disaster of "Cleopatra" (1963), Zanuck's father was forced to fire his son to appease stockholders. The young Zanuck shouldered the potentially humiliating situation with dignity, citing his father as his most significant role model in the film industry. A brief stint as senior executive vice president at Warner Bros. left Zanuck wondering if he was meant to work in motion pictures. His passion was rekindled, however, after an encounter with David Brown, another former Fox executive whom he had befriended at the beginning of his career. Together they formed an independent company, Zanuck/Brown Productions, in partnership with Universal Pictures in 1972. Almost immediately, they scored as executive producers with "The Sting" (1973), a period comedy about a pair of Depression Era conmen that reunited Zanuck with his "Butch Cassidy" stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The film netted seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and launched Zanuck/Brown as a serious contender in the movie industry.

Just as Zanuck differed from most movie producers by being present on his sets throughout the shoot, his company was set apart from others by virtue of its adventurous outlook. They took risks on films, hiring unknown directors like Steven Spielberg, whose first feature, "The Sugarland Express" (1974), was made with Zanuck and Brown. The pair remembered him when their director for an adaptation of Peter Benchley's thriller "Jaws" (1975) dropped out, and the resulting film was not only an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, but also a launching pad for Spielberg as a dominant force in the industry. But not every experiment worked, however, as "The Island" (1980), based on another Benchley novel, was an expensive flop. The same went for the biopic "MacArthur" (1977) starring Gregory Peck and the John Belushi-Dan Akyroyd comedy "Neighbors" (1981), both of which were box office failures. But success outweighed the down points thanks to films like "The Verdict" (1982), which netted another a Best Picture nod, and the Ron Howard fantasy "Cocoon" (1985), which also saw a pair of Academy Award nominations. The latter film was brought to Zanuck and Brown by the former's third wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, who became a partner in the company and one of its shrewdest executives in the industry.

Though Brown and Zanuck eventually dissolved the company, both him and the Zanucks remained close over the years. Zanuck went on to produce his first film under his new umbrella, "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), a film based on the Alfred Uhry play. Passed on by just about every company in town because of its central relationship between an elderly white woman (Jessica Tandy) and her black chauffeur (Morgan Freeman), Zanuck displayed his old willingness to take risks and turned a dismissed project into an Oscar-winning Best Picture. Two years later, Zanuck shared with Brown the honor of being given the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. But the Zanuck Company's output in the 1990s started to falter with the largely ignored addiction drama "Rush" (1991), which marked Lili Zanuck's directorial debut, and the easily dismissible Dana Carvey comedy "Clean Slate" (1994). He earned modest returns and some critical acclaim from the "Chinatown"-like neo-noir "Mulholland Falls" (1996), but stumbled with the Keanu Reeves-Morgan Freeman action thriller "Chain Reaction" (1996). Following a significant box office hit with "Deep Impact" (1998) - one of two asteroid-imperiling-the-Earth flicks that year - Zanuck partnered with Clint Eastwood on the understated crime drama "True Crime" (1999) and William Friedkin on the military courtroom drama "The Rules of Engagement" (2000), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

Having found some of his best success in collaboration with top directors, Zanuck entered into a fruitful partnership with Tim Burton starting with the successful, but not entirely pleasing remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001). Before he continued his work with Burton, Zanuck produced "The Road to Perdition" (2002), which starred Tom Hanks as a morally conflicted Depressoin-era hit man who goes on the run with his young son after bearing witness to murder by his aging boss (Paul Newman). Following the rather silly fantasy flick, "Reign of Fire" (2002), where dragons are suddenly brought out of hibernation in modern-day London, Zanuck resumed his work with Burton on a string of critical and box office hits with the fantastical "Big Fish" (2003) with Ewan McGregor, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), the Golden Globe-nominated "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007) and the international box office hit "Alice in Wonderland" (2010). All of these projects were produced under the Zanuck Company's production deal with DreamWorks, which was launched in 2000. Away from Burton, Zanuck produced the Jim Carrey comedy "Yes Man" (2008) and the much-maligned remake of "Clash of the Titans" (2010). He went on to produce what amounted to be his final film, "Dark Shadows" (2012), a horror comedy directed by Burton and based on the campy cult TV show from the 1960s. On July 13, 2012, sudden news of Zanuck's death stunned Hollywood when it was revealed he had suffered from a heart attack that morning. He was 77 years old and left behind a legacy as one of cinema's most prominent filmmakers.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Last Mogul, The (2005) Cast
5.
 History Vs. Hollywood (2001) Interviewee ("M*A*S*H*") ("Patton: A Rebel Revisited")
7.
8.
9.
 Robert Redford: Hollywood Outlaw (2000) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Served in U.S. Army as second lieutenant
1954:
Began working in story department at 20th Century Fox
1956:
Served as vice president of Darryl F. Zanuck Productions with responsibilities for U.S. operations; also worked as assistant to his father when the elder Zanuck produced "The Sun Also Rises" (1956) and "Islands in the Sun" (1957)
1959:
Debuted as producer with "Compulsion"
1962:
Was assistant to his producer-father on "The Longest Day"
:
Served as president's production representative at Fox
1962:
Became the youngest production chief in Hollywood after his father appointed him executive VP in charge of production at Fox
1969:
Promoted to president of 20th Century-Fox
1970:
Fired as president by father
1971:
Became senior executive vice president at Warner Bros.; resigned in 1972 to become independent producer
1972:
With David Brown, formed The Zanuck/Brown Company
1973:
First film in collaboration with Brown, "The Sting", won that year's Best Picture Oscar; with Brown, credited as executive producer of the film
1974:
Initial collaboration with Steven Spielberg, co-produced the director's debut feature "The Sugarland Express"
1975:
Delivered box office blockbuster with Spielberg's "Jaws"; received first Best Picture Oscar nomination as producer
:
Zanuck/Brown Company based at 20th Century Fox
1982:
Earned second Best Picture Academy Award nomination as producer of Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama "The Verdict"
1983:
Zanuck/Brown Company based at Warner Bros.
1985:
Third wife Lili Fini Zanuck joined producing team on the box-office success "Cocoon"
1988:
Dissolved partnership with David Brown
1989:
With Lili Fini Zanuck, formed The Zanuck Company
1989:
First film released under new banner, "Driving Miss Daisy," directed by Bruce Beresford; received Best Picture Academy Award
1991:
Produced wife's directorial debut "Rush"
1991:
Received the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (shared with Brown)
1993:
Reteamed with Beresford as producer of the family drama "Rich in Love"
1993:
Received Producers Guild of America's David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award (shared with Brown)
1998:
Reunited with David Brown as producer on "Deep Impact," released through DreamWorks
1999:
With Lili Fini Zanuck and Clint Eastwood, produced the thriller "True Crime"; film directed by Eastwood
2000:
With wife, co-produced the annual telecast of the Academy Awards
2000:
Signed production deal with DreamWorks
2001:
First association with director Tim Burton, big screen remake of "Planet of the Apes"
2003:
Co-produced "Big Fish," directed by Burton; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical or Comedy Picture
2005:
Produced Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007), and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), all of which starred Johnny Depp
2008:
Produced the Jim Carrey romantic comedy "Yes Man"
2012:
Re-teamed with director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp as producer of feature adaptation of the gothic drama "Dark Shadows"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Stanford University: Stanford , California - 1952 - 1956
Harvard Military Academy: Los Angeles , California - 1952

Notes

"It was our taste in material, in that, David [Brown] and I were uncannily similar, totally twinlike. In everything else, we were opposites. David is an East Coast intellectual, I'm a West Coast beach guy. I'm a marathon runner and he doesn't ever watch sports on television. Our environments and culture are polar.

"But we responded to the same kinds of material and we both go for commercial potential. Some think that he has more of a high-brow take on material, because of his background and surroundings, but he doesn't. ... we never divided things up--no 'you-do-this' and 'I'll-do-that' mentality. We were always intermingling.

"Most people think that because David's a story person, he confined himself to that and that I did the line producing. That wasn't the case. We each devoted equal time in all functions.

"We've both seen the business change a dozen times--and that was just this week." --Richard D Zanuck quoted in Variety, October 18, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lili Zanuck. Mother of Zanuck's two oldest children; divorced.
wife:
Linda Harrison. Actor. Appeared in "Planet of the Apes"; married on October 26, 1969; mother of two of Zanuck's children; divorced.
wife:
Lili Fini Zanuck. Producer, director. Born c. 1954; married on September 23, 1978.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Darryl F Zanuck. Executive, producer, screenwriter. Born on September 5, 1902; died on December 22, 1979.
mother:
Virginia Zanuck.
sister:
Darrylin Zanuck. Older.
sister:
Susan Marie Zanuck. Born in August 1933.
daughter:
Virginia Zanuck. Born in October 1959; mother, Lili Gentle.
daughter:
Janet Zanuck. Born in September 1960; mother, Lili Gentle.
son:
Harrison R Zanuck. Born in February 1971; mother, Linda Harrison.
son:
Dean F Zanuck. Born in August 1972; mother, Linda Harrison.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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