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Richard D. Zanuck
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Zanuck at the 62nd Annual Academy Awards, 1990
Richard Darryl Zanuck

(1934-12-13)December 13, 1934
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died July 13, 2012(2012-07-13) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Film producer
Years active 1956–2012
  • Lili Gentle
    (m. 1958; div. 1969)
  • (m. 1969; div. 1978)
  • Lili Fini
    (m. 1978)
Children 4, including Dean Zanuck

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 career of director Steven Spielberg, who described Zanuck as a "director's producer" and "one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession."

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. He was the youngest of three children. He had two elder sisters, Darrylin (1931–2015) and Susan (1933–1980). 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. After failures like 1967's Doctor Dolittle, he was dismissed 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. Their first big hit was "The Sting" (1973) which won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1974. 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. 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."

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 a second cousin of actress Tallulah Bankhead. The marriage, which produced two daughters, Virginia Lorraine Zanuck (born 1959) and Janet Beverly Zanuck (born 1960), 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. 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 (born 1971) and Dean Francis Zanuck (born 1972).

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."

On September 23, 1978, Zanuck married his third wife, Lili Fini (born 1954), 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.


Zanuck died on July 13, 2012, of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles. The Beverly Park home he had lived in until his death was sold for $20.1M in July 2012. On February 25, 2014, 20th 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." The ceremony was attended by Zanuck's widow, Lili Fini Zanuck, his sons, and four of his nine grandchildren.


He was a producer in all films unless otherwise noted.


Credited as producer

  • Compulsion (1959)
  • Sanctuary (1961)
  • The Chapman Report (1962)
  • Willie Dynamite (1974)
  • The Sugarland Express (1974)
  • The Girl from Petrovka (1974)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Jaws 2 (1978)
  • The Island (1980)
  • Neighbors (1981)
  • The Verdict (1982)
  • Cocoon (1985)
  • Target (1985)
  • Cocoon: The Return (1988)
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  • Rush (1991)
  • Rich in Love (1992)
  • Clean Slate (1994)
  • Wild Bill (1995)
  • Mulholland Falls (1996)
  • Deep Impact (1998)
  • True Crime (1999)
  • Rules of Engagement (2000)
  • Planet of the Apes (2001)
  • Road to Perdition (2002)
  • Reign of Fire (2002)
  • Big Fish (2003)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
  • Yes Man (2008)
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010)
  • Dark Shadows (2012) (final film)
  • Hidden (2015) (posthumous, uncredited)

Credited as executive producer

Other film credits

Credited as miscellaneous crew
Year Film Role Notes
1963 Cleopatra Studio executive Uncredited
1965 The Sound of Music
1966 The Sand Pebbles
1967 Doctor Dolittle
1969 Patton
1970 M*A*S*H
1970 Tora! Tora! Tora!
1971 The French Connection
Credited as production manager
Year Film Role Notes
1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! Executive in charge of production Uncredited
Credited as "Thanks"
Year Film Notes
2013 The Zero Theorem In the memory of the great
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Special thanks: Our old friends
2014 Escobar: Paradise Lost In loving memory of


Television credits for Richard Zanuck
Year Production Credit Notes
1987 CBS Summer Playhouse Executive producer
1992 Driving Miss Daisy Executive producer Television film
2000 72nd Academy Awards Television special
2004 Dead Lawyers Executive producer Television film
2015 Bessie Executive producer Television film
Posthumous credit

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

See also

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