Written by Kirk BairdFamed Hollywood producer Richard D. Zanuck died over the weekend at age 77.
Zanuck was that rare film producer whose name was often as recognizable as any of the others in a movie’s credits. In decades of working in film, he won his only Academy Award in 1990 for Driving Miss Daisy, which took Best Film honors. A year later he was making an acceptance speech again after being awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his distinguished career as a producer.
Through all his accomplishments in movies, Zanuck is best known as the producer who gave Steven Spielberg his first shot at directing a major film; he also stood by the young director when everything on set was falling apart. Zanuck’s patience and Spielberg’s perseverance were both rewarded with what at that time was the highest-grossing film of all time, Jaws.
In a statement, Spielberg said, “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.'"
More recently, Zanuck partnered with Tim Burton on the filmmaker’s projects, including Dark Shadows, a big-screen version of the 1960s gothic soap opera, which opened in theaters in May.
Here’s a partial list of some of Zanuck’s best and best-known films.
The Sugarland Express (Spielberg’s first feature film) (1974)
The Verdict (1982)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Big Fish (2003)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)