Richard D. Zanuck

Richard D. Zanuck

Zanuck at the 62nd Annual Academy Awards, March 26, 1990
Born Richard Darryl Zanuck
(1934-12-13)December 13, 1934
Los Angeles, California
Died July 13, 2012(2012-07-13) (aged 77)
Beverly Hills, California
Cause of death Heart attack[1]
Years active 1956–2012
Spouse(s) Lili Charlene Gentle (1958–69)
Linda Melson Harrison (1969–78)
Lili Fini Zanuck (1978–2012, his death)
Children Virginia Lorraine Zanuck
(b. October 1959),
Janet Beverly Zanuck Davidson
(b. September 1960),
Harrison Richard Zanuck
(b. February 1971),
Dean Francis Zanuck
(b. August 1972)

Richard Darryl Zanuck (December 13, 1934 – July 13, 2012) was an American film producer. His 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Zanuck was also instrumental in launching the careers of directors Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg, who described Zanuck as a "director's producer" and "one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession."[2]

Early life and career

Richard Darryl Zanuck was born in Los Angeles, to actress Virginia Fox and Darryl F. Zanuck, then head of production for 20th Century-Fox. While studying at Stanford University, he began his career in the film industry working for the 20th Century Fox story department. In 1959, Zanuck had his first shot at producing with the film Compulsion. In the 1960s, Zanuck became the president of 20th Century Fox. One year of his tenure was chronicled by John Gregory Dunne in The Studio.[3] After failures like 1967's Doctor Dolittle, he was fired by his father and joined Warner Bros. as Executive Vice President.

In 1972, Zanuck joined with David Brown to form an independent production company called the Zanuck/Brown Company at Universal Pictures. The two men produced a pair of Steven Spielberg's early films, The Sugarland Express (1974) and Jaws (1975). They subsequently produced such box office hits as Cocoon (1985) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989) before dissolving their partnership in 1988. They were jointly awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1990. He worked with Tim Burton six times, producing Burton's adaptation of Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and Dark Shadows (2012). He and Burton connected immediately, and Zanuck was Burton's producer of choice.[4] In a May 2012 interview, Zanuck told Variety: "A producer should contribute from the very beginning until the very end, in all aspects. I'm there at the set every day, on every shot. Not that the director, particularly Tim [Burton], needs me, but just in case."[1]

Personal life

Zanuck married three times. On January 14, 1958, he married Lili Charlene Gentle (b. March 4, 1940), an actress from Birmingham, Alabama, and second cousin of Tallulah Bankhead. The marriage, which produced two daughters, Virginia and Janet, was dissolved in 1968. On October 26, 1969, Zanuck and his protégé, actress Linda Harrison, together with his friend, producer Sy Bartlett, and Harrison's sister Kay, flew to Las Vegas, where Zanuck married Harrison on a balcony of the Sands Hotel.[5][6][7] The marriage became difficult after Harrison failed to garner the role of the wife in Zanuck's production of Jaws. In mid-1977, as a result of his second wife's entanglement with a 65-year-old "guru", Vincentii Turriziani of the Risen Christ Foundation, and the alleged guru's claims and demands for money from Zanuck, he filed for divorce and was awarded custody of his two sons, Harrison Richard Zanuck and Dean Francis Zanuck.[8][9][10] In a 1985 interview, Zanuck said that career problems contributed to his two failed marriages. "Both girls were actresses, and neither one was well established," he said. As head of 20th Century Fox, "It was tough to try to be fair to the project and also try to help them in their careers. If I didn't give them the role, then I had to explain why they weren't right for it. It wasn't the major problem in the marriages, but it was an underlying source of discomfort."[11]

On September 23, 1978, Zanuck married his third wife, Lili Fini (born April 2, 1954, Leominster, Massachusetts), a former World Bank employee and Carnation Co. office manager, who helped him raise his sons from his second marriage, and would co-produce some of his most memorable films, including Cocoon (1985), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and Reign of Fire (2002). When the Zanucks won the Best Picture Oscar in 1989 for Driving Miss Daisy, Lili Fini Zanuck was only the second woman in history to have earned an Oscar for Best Picture. In 1998, she directed an episode of the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, titled "We Have Cleared the Tower", and in 2000, Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck co-produced the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony.[12]


Richard Zanuck died on July 13, 2012, of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills.[1][13] The Beverly Park home he had lived in until his death was sold for $20.1M in July 2012.[14] On February 25, 2014, Twentieth-Century Fox opened the Richard D. Zanuck Production Building at its Los Angeles studios. "Richard was a true giant of our industry for over five decades," Fox Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos said at the dedication ceremony. "He was family, and an integral part of our legacy. We couldn't find a building worthy of him, so we built one."[15][16] The ceremony was attended by Zanuck's widow, Lili Fini Zanuck, his sons, Harrison and Dean, and four of his nine grandchildren, Jack, Darryl, Kyler, and Luke Zanuck.[17]



Year Production Notes
1987 CBS Summer Playhouse Episode: "Barrington"
1992 Driving Miss Daisy television film
2000 72nd Academy Awards
2004 Dead Lawyers television film

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
2015 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Television Movie Bessie Won
2011 Golden Globe Award Best Film Alice in Wonderland Nominated
2009 Camerimage Special Award to the Producer of Visually Outstanding Films Won
2007 Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Nominated
2007 Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Won
2007 Saturn Award Best Horror Film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Won
2005 British Academy Children's Awards Best Film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Nominated
2005 Saturn Award Best Film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Nominated
2004 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Film Big Fish Nominated
2004 Palm Springs International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award Won
2002 Producers Guild of America Award Best Theatrical Motion Picture Road to Perdition Nominated
2002 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Remake or Sequel Planet of the Apes (2001 film) Won
2001 ShoWest Convention, USA Producer of the Year Won
2000 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special 72nd Academy Awards Nominated
1998 Hollywood Film Festival Outstanding Achievement in Producing Won
1993 Producers Guild of America Award Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures Won
1991 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Film Driving Miss Daisy Nominated
1990 Academy Award Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award Won
1990 Academy Award Best Picture Driving Miss Daisy Won
1990 Golden Globe Award Best Picture– Musical or Comedy Driving Miss Daisy Won
1990 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Best Film Driving Miss Daisy Won
1990 Producers Guild of America Award Best Theatrical Motion Picture Driving Miss Daisy Won
1990 Producers Guild of America Award Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Driving Miss Daisy Won
1983 Academy Award Best Picture The Verdict Nominated
1976 Academy Award Best Picture Jaws Nominated


  1. 1 2 3 Chagollan, Steve (July 13, 2012). "Oscar-winning producer Richard Zanuck dies at 77". Variety.
  2. Filmmakers, producers remember Richard Zanuck, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2012
  3. John Gregory Dunne. The Studio, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1969), ISBN 0-375-70008-0
  4. "Telegraph obituary of Richard Zanuck". Telegraph.
  5. The Cumberland News, October 28, 1969, p. 3.
  6. The Milwaukee Journal: Show Business, Part II, Monday October 27, 1969, p. 12.
  7. Richard Warren Lewis, In Bracken's World Live Beautiful People, Including..., TV Guide, February 14, 1970, p. 28.
  8. Stephen M. Silverman, The Fox That Got Away: The Last Days of the Zanuck Dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox (L. Stuart 1988), p. 143.
  9. Lakeland Ledger, Tipoff, July 26, 1977, p. 2.
  10. The Montreal Gazette, November 18, 1974, p. 28.
  11. Bob Thomas. Producing 'Cocoon' was a family affair, The Associated Press, Nashua Telegraph, June 27, 1985, p. 22.
  12. "Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to Produce 72nd Oscar Telecast" (Press release). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. September 29, 1999. Retrieved July 16, 2008.
  13. "Hollywood producer Richard Zanuck dies at 77". July 14, 2012.
  14. "L.A. Home of Richard Zanuck Sells for $20.1 Million". November 12, 2012.
  15. Pamela McClintock. Old Hollywood Turns Out for Richard D. Zanuck Building Dedication at Fox The Hollywood Reporter, 26th February 2014
  16. Nikara Johns. 20th Century Fox Dedicates Production Building to Richard D. Zanuck Variety, 26th February 2014
  17. Dedication of the Richard D. Zanuck Production Building at the Twentieth Century Fox Studios, Yahoo!Celebrity UK&Ireland, Feb 26, 2014
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