Hollywood stars do stints on Broadway to bolster their acting credibility, and the wall between theater and cinema is not nearly as rigid as it once was. Craig Zadan certainly had something to do with that. This producer with deep roots in the New York theater scene was responsible for the popularity of the movie musical that was rekindled in the 1980s and garnered healthy box offices well into the next century.
Born April 15, 1949 in Miami, Florida, Zadan's family moved to New York when he was two. He began his long love affair with New York's theater community writing for the theater magazine of record in the sixties and seventies, After Dark. By 1973 he had already transitioned away from journalism and had tried his hand as a co-producer of a Broadway tribute to the crown prince of theater, "Sondheim: A Musical Tribute," a revue that featured theater legends Angela Lansbury and Alexis Smith. By 1979 Zadan had conceived and directed "Up in One," a review built around the music of pop hit maker Peter Allen that ran for 46 performances at the Biltmore Theatre.
In 1984 Zadan ventured into the movie musical as producer of the critically panned '80s cornball classic "Footloose," starring the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon. In 1989 he topped this achievement with an overlooked poor-side-of-the-tracks love story featuring Lorraine Bracco, "Sing" (1989), and another unintentional camp classic, a Richard Grieco vehicle penned by Darren Star called "If Looks Could Kill" (1991).
Zadan found himself on the road to redemption as executive producer on a made-for-television version of "Gypsy" (CBS 1993) starring Bette Midler, who won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film. The project drew on the original Ramin and Ginzler orchestrations, was choreographed by Jerome Robbins, and featured costumes by Bob Mackie. In 1995 Zadan was executive producer on one of the first television movies to address gays in the military, "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story" (NBC 1995), a project that won Emmys for both stars Glenn Close and Judy Davis and writer Alison Cross, and Emmy nominations for its director and producers.
Zadan followed this success with a television movie version of the Broadway classic "Annie" (ABC 1999), directed and choreographed by an up-and-coming Rob Marshall -- who came away with an Emmy Award -- and starring Kathy Bates, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Zadan teamed up once more with director Rob Marshall on the surprise hit musical film "Chicago" (2002). Marshall was credited with having coaxed convincing musical performances out of three accomplished actors without singing chops, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere. The film was a critical hit and enough of a box office success to pave the way for a revived interest in musical film projects coming out of Hollywood.
The following year Zadan was executive producer of a television version of another classic musical, "The Music Man" (ABC 2003) starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth, which was panned by critics but garnered five Emmy nominations nonetheless. That same year Zadan served as executive producer on a somewhat lackluster television movie about comic legend Lucille Ball, "Lucy" (CBS 2003), and a television movie about the Reagan presidency, "The Reagans" (Showtime 2003), starring James Brolin and Judy Davis. Political conservatives found the portrayal controversial, causing the CBS to remove the film from its lineup.
Zadan's next major project was the movie version of the hit musical based on the cult John Waters film "Hairspray" (2007), which featured John Travolta in the role originally played by underground drag legend Divine. It had an unusually wide debut for a movie musical, leading to its record as the biggest opening for a movie musical. That same year he produced a Rob Reiner comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, "The Bucket List" (2007). The schmaltzy aging buddy film was an audience favorite but received poor critical notices.
In 2010 Zadan returned to Broadway to produce a revival of the Bacharach and David musical "Promises, Promises," which ran for 289 performances at the Broadway Theatre and won a Tony for actress Katie Finneran. The following year he produced a relatively successful revival of another '60s musical, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (2011). The show featured Daniel Radcliffe and ran for a healthy 473 performances at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, ending up nominated for nine Tony Awards.
The producer returned to his roots in 2011 with a movie reboot of "Footloose" that featured its Kenny Loggins theme song reimagined by country star Blake Shelton. The next year Zadan was executive producer on the television show about the trials and tribulations of mounting a musical in New York, "Smash" (NBC 2012-13). The early episodes received interest from critics and audiences, and the show was picked up for a second season. After the ratings and reception dipped, the show was cancelled.
On the heels of "Smash" Zadan was asked to produce the The 85th Annual Academy Awards show in 2013, hosted by cult comedy bad boy, Seth MacFarlane. The show was not a critical favorite but any controversies over MacFarlane's frat house humor were swiftly overlooked when the show expanded its reach with a younger demographic. Craig Zadan and his producing partner Neil Meron were rehired to produce the Academy Awards the following year.
Producer (Feature Film)
Production Companies (Feature Film)
Producer (TV Mini-Series)
Produced "Sondheim: A Musical Tribute"
Produced 80's movie musical "Footloose"
Produced television movie musical "Gypsy"
Produced movie musical "Chicago"
Produced movie musical "Hairspray"
Produced The 85th Annual Academy Awards