Richard Zanuck, the Hollywood producer behind Driving Miss Daisy, Jaws, Alice in Wonderland, and several other award-winning hits, passed away today at the age of 77.
Variety reports that Zanuck suffered a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles.
Zanuck was known for sticking up for his directors. When Steven Spielberg’s Jaws ran over-budget and behind schedule, Zanuck stood up for a young Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg said described Zanuck as “a director’s producer,” saying that Zanuck felt that his job was “to protect the director.”
“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.”
Several years later Zanuck formed another bond with director Tim Burton. In 2001, Zanuck produced Burton’s remake of Planet Of The Apes. The two continued to work together on Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd And The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, Alice and Wonderland, and most recently, Dark Shadows.
While filming Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Burton said:
“I’ve worked with a lot of people who like to create chaos so they can solve the chaos… He’s not one of those people. It’s amazing that someone who’s been through as much as he’s been through remains as passionate and optimistic about the whole thing.”
At 77-years-old, Zanuck continued to produce movies. His latest movie, Dark Shadows, was released this summer. He was also scheduled to produce Hidden, a new movie starring Alexander Skarsgård.
Zanuck was a Hollywood producer for more than half a century. During that time he won an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy (he was nominated for both Jaws and The Verdict), as well as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and the Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award.