Family & Companions
In 1992, actress turned executive Sherry Lansing made Hollywood history when she was appointed chairperson of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group, through which she released a string of box office hits, including "Titanic" (1997) and "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). Born Sherry Lee Duhl in Chicago, Illinois on July 31, 1944, Lansing the eldest of two daughters in a Jewish household overseen by her father, a real estate investor, and her mother, who had fled Nazi Germany as a teenager. Lansing's father died when she was nine years old, and rather than give up his business, her mother took over his real estate company, and often brought Lansing to meetings with clients. She attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools before enrolling at Northwestern, where she studied math, English and theater. Upon graduation with a bachelor of science degree in 1966, Lansing headed west to Los Angeles, where she worked as a teacher and model before trying her hand at an acting career. Lansing appeared in largely ornamental roles in two features - "Loving" (1970) and Howard Hawks' "Rio Lobo" (1970) opposite John Wayne - and a handful of television episodes before deciding to pursue a career behind the camera. She took a job as a script reader and later, story editor with MGM, where she worked on both "The China Syndrome" (1979) and "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979). Her talent for identifying successful properties quickly sent her up the corporate ladder: Lansing became a vice president at MGM before moving to Columbia Pictures in 1977 to serve as vice president in charge of production. In 1980, she made motion picture business history by becoming the first woman to head a film studio when she was made head of 20th Century Fox. The studio produced a string of box office hits during her tenure, including the Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" (1981) and "Taps" (1981), which introduced her to an up-and-coming actor named Tom Cruise. Two years later, Lansing left the company to set up her own production entity, Jaffe/Lansing, which scored a substantial hit in 1987 with the thriller "Fatal Attraction." When Jaffe was named president of Paramount Communications in 1990, he tapped Lansing to serve as chairperson for the company's motion picture group. After marrying director William Friedkin in 1991, Lansing oversaw a twelve-year run of exceptionally popular box office hits, including the Oscar-winning "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Braveheart" (1995), "Titanic" (1997) and "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), as well as several of Cruise's most successful titles - "The Firm" (1993) and "Mission: Impossible" (1996) among them - through his Cruise/Wagner production shingle with the studio. When media giant Viacom, which had purchased the studio in 1994, decided to split the company into two separate entities in 2004, Lansing stepped down as chairman and entered the philanthropic world. She created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which raised funds for cancer research in 2005, and served on the board for numerous medical and educational institutions, including the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation, and co-founded the Stand Up to Cancer Initiative in 2007. For these and other efforts, Lansing was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards in 2007. Lansing later served as a member of the board of directors for the W.M. Keck Foundation, which supported scientific and medical research, and for the Dole Food Company. In 2017, she collaborated with author Stephen Galloway to release her biography, Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Made feature acting debut, in "Loving"
Made last film as actress, "Rio Lobo"
Appointed senior vp production, Columbia Pictures
Made executive story editor (1975), then executive VP creative affairs, at MGM
Appointed president of production at Twentieth Century-Fox, the first woman to hold that position in the movie industry
Formed own production company, Jaffe-Lansing Productions, with Stanley Jaffe
Executive produced first feature, "Racing With the Moon"
Executive produced first TV show, "When the Time Comes"
Named chairwoman of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group
Signed five-year contract with Paramount to remain as chair until the year 2000
Stepped down as Paramount's studio chief after an almost unprecedented twelve-year tenure
Created The Sherry Lansing Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer research