Filmmakers, producers remember Richard Zanuck

The death of Dick Zanuck stunned many in Hollywood on Friday, prompting an outpouring of accolades from directors, producers, actors and executives who had worked with him over the decades.

Former News Corp. president Peter Chernin, whose 20th Century Fox-based production company worked with Zanuck on last year’s hit remake “Planet of the Apes,” said that he spoke with Zanuck on Thursday and “he sounded upbeat and happy.”

The two spoke briefly about Zanuck’s next project for Chernin Entertainment called “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” which Tim Burton was interested in directing.

PHOTOS: Richard Zanuck | 1934 - 2012

“He just got back Monday from London with Tim and had a short vacation in the South of France,” said Chernin. “And he was very excited about going back to work.” Chernin said Zanuck was so excited to tell him that he was off to Vancouver, Canada, to work on his next film, “Hidden,” for Warner Bros.

“He always said, ‘I can’t sit still. I’m going back to work. I love to work,” said Chernin, who had known Zanuck for some 35 years. “When I first moved to Hollywood in the late ‘70s we became really good friends when he was working for David Gerber at Columbia. “He was a sweetheart, a straightforward guy who was genuinely enthusiastic about what he did for a living. He knew himself really well. He loved making movies.”


Chernin said it was Fox Chairman Tom Rothman who recommended that Zanuck produce the 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes,” since Zanuck had made the original 1968 film while working at Fox. That’s when Zanuck and Burton -- who was attached to direct the remake -- met and embarked on a creative collaboration that would produce such films as “Big Fish,""Alice in Wonderland” and this summer’s “Dark Shadows.”

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“That started the last chapter of Dick’s life,” said Rothman.

“Dick was a legend who deserved to be a legend,” added Rothman. “In addition to being a producer in his own right, he was the gold standard of doing the job that I’m doing as an executive.” At age 28, he was named president of production at Fox, the studio headed by his famous Hollywood mogul father.

“The history of both the modern movie business and 20th Century Fox are inseparable from Dick Zanuck,” said Rothman. “And both will be poorer for his loss.”

Before working with Burton, Zanuck worked with a young Steven Spielberg on"Jaws.” Spielberg recalled their collaboration Friday, saying: “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.”

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Many of Zanuck’s films were made for Warner Bros. Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of the studio, on Friday called Zanuck “a longstanding member of the Warner Bros. family and an extraordinary producer.”

“His body of work includes some of the best-loved films of all time, including our own ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ for which he received an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1989,” Meyer said. “He was a good friend and will always be remembered as a true gentleman who strove for and achieved excellence throughout his career.”


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Richard Zanuck, legendary Hollywood producer, dies at 77

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