Oscar-winning film producer Richard D. Zanuck — who, over a 53-year career, marshaled everything from mass-market popcorn movies like Jaws and Planet of the Apes, to prestige pictures like Driving Miss Daisy and Road to Perdition — died Friday, of a heart attack. He was 77.
Zanuck was born into Hollywood royalty; his father Darryl F. Zanuck ran 20th Century Fox, and the younger Zanuck was named president of production at the studio when he was 28. In 1971, he formed the Zanuck/Brown Co. with David Brown (who passed away in 2010), where he produced Steven Spielberg’s first two films, The Sugarland Express and Jaws, as well as The Verdict and Cocoon.
In 1990, Zanuck won an Oscar for Best Picture with wife Lili Fini Zanuck for Driving Miss Daisy. One year later, the Academy bestowed Zanuck with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the highest honor the Academy can give a creative film producer. (In 2000, Zanuck and his wife produced the Oscar telecast, to wide acclaim.) Over the last two decades, Zanuck has produced six of director Tim Burton’s films, most recently Dark Shadows.
Spielberg released the following statement about Zanuck:
In 1974, Dick Zanuck and I sat in a boat off Martha’s Vineyard and watched the mechanical shark sink to the bottom of the sea. Dick turned to me and smiled. “Gee, I sure hope that’s not a sign.” That moment forged a bond between us that lasted nearly 40 years. He taught me everything I know about producing. He was one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession and he fought tooth and nail for his directors. Dick Zanuck was a cornerstone of our industry, both in name and in deed.
Zanuck is survived by his wife Lili, sons Harrison and Dean, daughters Virginia and Janet, nine grandchildren, and sister Darrylin.