The producer of "The Sting" and "Taxi Driver" dies of cancer

Before her death Jan. 1 of cancer, my friend Julia Phillips, 57, lived a life of unpredictable extremes. In 1974, the New York City native became the first woman to win a Best Picture Oscar, for The Sting, which she produced with then husband Michael Phillips, 58, and Tony Bill, 61. (The Phillipses also teamed for Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.) Then she turned her back on Hollywood with her best-selling 1991 gloves-off memoir, You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again (at her death, she was working on an adaptation for Showtime). When I spoke to her on Christmas Eve, I mentioned the pithy author’s bio from her 1995 book Driving Under the Affluence: ”Julia Phillips lives.” She quickly retorted: ”And then she doesn’t.” Instead of a funeral, she insisted on a cocktail party in L.A. where friends could swap their own ”Jools” stories. ”She was the most ferocious kind of friend,” recalls Paramount Classics copresident Ruth Vitale. ”But when she was a foe she was equally ferocious. There was no in-between for Julia.”