* Zanuck a key producer on "Jaws," "Driving Miss Daisy"
* Was both a studio boss and independent producer
* Won one Oscar, also given Academy's Thalberg award
(Adds reaction, details, background)
By Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, July 13 Veteran Hollywood executive
Richard D. Zanuck, the prolific producer behind the blockbuster
shark thriller "Jaws," the best-picture Oscar-winner "Driving
Miss Daisy" and a string of Tim Burton fantasies, died on Friday
of a heart attack at age 77.
Zanuck, son of famed 20th Century Fox chieftain Darryl F.
Zanuck, who was named by his father at age 28 as Fox's head of
production, making him Hollywood's then youngest-ever studio
boss, died at his home in Beverly Hills, a spokesman said.
No further details were immediately available about the
circumstances of his death.
Zanuck, who spent the bulk of his career as an independent
producer, earned numerous awards during more than 50 years in
Among his accolades were the Academy Award he shared with
his wife and collaborator, Lili Fini Zanuck, for their work on
"Driving Miss Daisy," and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his
work with longtime associate David Brown.
Steven Spielberg, with whom Zanuck collaborated on "Jaws,"
called the producer "a cornerstone of our industry, both in name
and in deed."
"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," Spielberg recalled in a statement. "Dick turned to me
and smiled. 'Gee, I sure hope that's not a sign.'"
That moment of wry humor proved to be far from prophetic, as
"Jaws," the tale of a great white shark that terrorizes a small
New England beach town, became one of the biggest hits of its
era and helped launch Spielberg's career as a director.
Born in Los Angeles, Zanuck, whose mother was actress
Virginia Fox, joined his father as a story and production
assistant on two 20th Century Fox films, "Island in the Sun" and
"The Sun Also Rises."
He debuted as a full-fledged producer at age 24 on 1959
feature film "Compulsion," which starred Orson Welles. Four
years later, he was placed in charge of production at his
During his eight-year tenure there, the studio cranked out a
series of critical and commercial successes, "The Sound of
Music," "Patton" and "The French Connection," all of which won
best film Oscars. Other Fox hits from that period include the
original "Planet of the Apes" series, the Paul Newman and Robert
Redford western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and the
Korean War satire "M*A*S*H."
HOLLYWOOD HITS AND MISSES
But a handful of big-screen musical flops "greenlighted" for
production by Zanuck, among them "Doctor Dolittle," "Hello
Dolly" and "Star," cost the studio dearly and ultimately led to
his ouster in 1970 by his father.
From there, Zanuck and Brown moved briefly to Warner Bros.,
where they oversaw the making of the religious thriller "The
Exorcist" and Mel Brooks' parody western, "Blazing Saddles"
before starting their own production company.
It was the Zanuck/Brown label that made Spielberg's 1974
film directorial debut, "The Sugarland Express," and his 1975
blockbuster "Jaws," which earned Oscars for film editing, score
Other Zanuck/Brown successes included "The Sting," a
Depression-era tale of grifters that reunited Newman and Redford
and won seven Academy Awards, including best picture; courtroom
drama "The Verdict," which earned five Oscar nominations, and
"Cocoon," which won Oscars for best supporting Oscar (Don
Ameche) and visual effects.
Zanuck earned his greatest personal filmmaking accolade for
the first movie produced under his own Zanuck Company label, the
1989 film "Driving Miss Daisy," about the relationship of a
stubborn old Jewish woman (Jessica Tandy) and her black
chauffeur (Morgan Freeman) in the American South.
The film earned four Oscars, including best actress for
Tandy and best picture for Zanuck and his wife.
The latter stretch of Zanuck's career was marked by a close
collaboration with director Tim Burton, starting with a 2001
remake of "Planet of the Apes," released by 20th Century Fox.
Others included the 2005 hit "Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory," the critically acclaimed 2007 musical "Sweeney Todd:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and the 2010 success "Alice in
Wonderland," all starring Johnny Depp.
The last film of Zanuck's career ended up being his sixth
collaboration with Burton, the critical and commercial bomb
"Dark Shadows," also starring Depp and based on the 1960s
television series about lovelorn vampire.
In addition to his wife, Zanuck is survived by his sons
Harrison and Dean, and nine grandchildren.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)