Born around 1958, and raised in Los Angeles, Amy Pascal got her first job while still in junior high school, wrapping books at a Los Angeles bookstore.
She worked as a bookkeeper at Crossroads school while geting her international relations degree at UCLA.
"Work is where I got my self-esteem," Pascal told the 8/18/02 Variety. "I learned that really early."
"I grew up in L.A.; my father was an economist, my mother was a librarian who later owned her own art bookstore - it was all very Jewish-middle-class intellectual. I went to Crossroads, a hippie school with, like, 10 kids, and we'd sit on the floor and read Robert Penn Warren. People always ask me if I'm from New York - maybe it's because of how fast I talk - but my family has no New York in it." (W magazine, 6/01)
Pascal wanted to work in film. She answered a trade paper ad and went to work for BBC producer Tony Garnett's Kestrel Films as his secretary. She worked there for six years. Their company developed and produced "Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird" (1985). By the time it was released, Pascal had moved to 20th Century Fox as a vice president of production.
Working under Scott Rudin, Pascal developed such films as Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything" (1989).
While president of Columbia Pictures, Dawn Steel hired Amy Pascal as vice president of production. Amy was known to have good literary taste. "She was also a brunette with funky, whimsical taste in clothing. She was told to spiff up her wardrobe." (Hit & Run, p. 262)
After her boss Michael Nathanson did time at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital's rehab unit in Marina Del Rey, Amy Pascal did a stint at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs.
Pascal served at Columbia from 1986 - 1993. She then wanted out of her contract to become president of production at Turner Pictures. Pascal quarreled bitterly with her longtime friend Lisa Henson, Columbia's new president of production. (Hit & Run, pg. 434)
In 1994, Pascal became president of Turner Pictures. After the 1996 merger between Turner and Time Warner, Pascal became president of Columbia.
Pascal boosted films with such female directors as Betty Thomas, Nora Ephron, Amy Heckerling, Diane Keaton and Nancy Meyers
In its 2001 power issue, Premiere magazine wrote: "Pascal presents herself as a victim as much as a player."
Amy is a skilled player of studio politics. One Hollywoodite ran into her at at a swank LA store in the early nineties. She was buying gifts for two competitors, one of whom would probably be her boss. She wanted to have all her bases covered.
Pascal is a major seducer of the news media, and has been particularly successful getting female journalists and feminists on her side.
Amy is particularly competitive with and jealous of her counterpart at Universal, Stacey Snyder.
The power to greenlight a picture at Pascal's studio still rests with Sony Pictures chairman John Calley.
W Magazine 6/01:
...Pascal remained single until her late 30s. Then a publicist introduced her to Bernard Weinraub, the New York Times' top Hollywood reporter, at a "work breakfast." "I knew from that morning that I wanted to marry him," Pascal says. "So I decided to pursue him. YOu have to be assertive in life, and once I set my mind to it, he didn't have much of a choice."
"I had no chance once she set her sights on me," Weinraub agrees. After their wedding, his paper weighed in: A Times Hollywood reporter might find marriage to the head of a studio a conflict of interest. So Weinraub shifted his beat to television and other L.A.-based subjects. "In the end," he says, "it was a question of personal happiness. I knew it was a great job, but there are other jobs. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance." And after almost four years of marriage, there are definitely no regrets.
"He gets a hoot out of what I do," Pascal says. "And he doesn't feel like I should be home cleaning the floor."
The couple recently adopted a son, Anthony, a life change that Weinraub says has been accommodated by Columbia. "They converted a meeting room at the studio for Anthony, so he has his toys and his crib there," he says. "We take him everywhere."
Pascal says that motherhood requires her to be more disciplined than she was before. "But your life expands to what's in it," she says. "I wake up with Anthony and have breakfast around 5:30. At work I have to stay really organized. After he goes to sleep, I make phone calls and read scripts - probably one a night and a couple on the weekend."
Amy has a lisp and is a poor public speaker. It's not been unknown for journalists to quietly complain about her at a news conference or some lecture setting, and then find out later they were sitting beside her husband, New York Times Hollywood correspondent Bernard Weinraub.
Despite her literary reputation, Pascal's supported generally low brow high concept movies during her tenure at Columbia, movies not only lacking in taste but also in profitability for the studio.
Jess Cagle writes for the 7/29/02 issue of Time magazine: It has been said that you can gauge her mood by whether her hair is straight (foul) or curly (ebullient). These days her mane is growing wild, with good reason. She and her husband, New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub, have their first child, and with hits like Panic Room, Spider-Man and Men in Black II, the chairman of Sony’s Columbia Pictures has generated more than $1 billion at the box office this year. Some in Hollywood are skeptical about the profitability of films with such expensive stars and special effects, but her current slate of pictures has broken all records. “People want spectacle,” insists Pascal, 44, “and obviously the ancillary markets [like video and dvd] will be gigantic.”
Pascal, who cultivates a dizzy but likable persona, originally became known for “chick flicks”—with strong mainstream instincts—in the early 1990s. As a Columbia vice president, she championed such hits as Single White Female and A League of Their Own. She has always been a popular figure who relates easily to creative types. “Amy’s emotional,” says a male producer who has worked with her recently, “and that’s good and bad, but she can get down in the trenches and help you work out a story.” Her own ascent to power, however, hasn’t been easy. Though she was named chairman in 1999, she seemed to lack the golden gut of the most successful studio chiefs. She released a string of uninspired teen movies and such duds as the 2000 Sandra Bullock–goes-to-rehab drama 28 Days. Guessing when she would be fired by her Sony bosses became a favorite Hollywood pastime.
“I had to figure out how to run a company while being true to my own instincts,” says Pascal, who began her career as a secretary. “We did some real work. Every time a movie would come out and work or not work, our group would sit around and analyze all our decisions—when we made them and how they contributed. What we didn’t do was put our heads in the sand and pretend it was working. I had my staff tell people to write up what they didn’t like about me so I knew what they were honestly thinking. That was probably a female thing because it’s an egoless thing.”
“Everybody said I made ‘chick flicks’ when the movies didn’t work,” says Pascal. “When the movies work, nobody calls them that.”
Rachel Abramowitz writes in the 5/2/02 LA Times: In the Hollywood of the '80s and '90s, "chick flick" was a pejorative term denoting movies about women that were soft, low-concept character studies.
Worst of all in this bottom-line industry, most of them didn't make money. "What [angered me] is they just talked about films about women that didn't work," recalls Columbia Chairman Amy Pascal, who was involved with a range of female-driven projects from the commercial blockbuster "A League of Their Own" to the unsuccessful "28 Days." "I called them dramas, not female films."
Pascal points to last year's big Columbia hit "Charlie's Angels," the chop-socky, butt-wiggling yarn of fabulous girl crime-fighters, as the prototype for the kind of chick flick she's interested in making now: "I wanted to make a movie about girl empowerment. That's what I set out to do, but I put it in a genre where it's a piece of entertainment and where it can get the point across without hammering it over people's heads."
David Poland writes 10/31/00: "But there really is nothing that indicates that she [Pascal] can run a studio. Blaming Calley doesn't make it any better. Her problem isn't that Hollywood doesn't give her enough credit. Her problem is that she has greenlit a load of bad movies and very few good ones. The good ones weren't very commercial and the bad ones weren't either. The only business that has worked for this regime was the New Line/Sony High run of low-budget teen movies that couldn't lose money. But that was embarrassing."
David Poland writes 11/3/00: "Put simply, Charlie’s Angels is crap. The Patrick Goldstein piece mentioned in yesterday's column got one key admission from Columbia film queen Amy Pascal -- no one person was in charge. (Ahem... that was supposed to be you, Ms. Pascal.) The first mega-mistake was handing a first-time director a project in one of the most difficult genres to pull off -- the television remake."
From the LA WEEKLY 11/3/00: In an interview with Columbia Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal, the Los Angeles Times’ Claudia Eller wrote that “Pascal is ultra-sensitive about criticisms from her detractors that Charlie’s Angels is yet another ‘girl movie,’ after bombing with such female-driven films including 28 Days, Hanging Up and Girl, Interrupted.” “This is a movie about totally positive female energy,” Pascal was quoted as saying, “and I think it’s an important thing that girls can be great at everything they do. They can be in love, be tough, have jobs and not sacrifice anything and be able to fly through the air and look great and be brilliant.” It’s been a bad year for Pascal, an interesting executive whose choices have gotten dumber the worse her movies have done — from Little Women to Charlie’s Angels, from Clueless to Hanging Up. “I really want this one to work because it hasn’t been the world’s greatest year,” Pascal told Eller. “It would be great for this to be the beginning of the turnaround. And it’s my story.” If it’s startling to read that the chairwoman of a major movie studio believes Charlie’s Angels is her story, it’s even more so if you’ve seen the movie and witnessed Barrymore tongue a steering wheel. Think of it as progress, Hollywood-style: When stupid movies happen to smart women, it’s no longer just men who are to blame.
Variety, 8/18/02, named Amy Pascal "Showman of the Year" for its 97th Anniversary issue. Variety writes: "The publicity arena has been Pascal's Achilles' heel as a female executive. The press has often played up her disarming flightiness and feminine taste. Flops like the rehab dramas "28 Days" and "Girl, Interrupted," the strident sister comedy "Hanging Up" and Penny Marshall's "Riding in Cars With Boys" fueled the press's superficial perception of Pascal as queen of the chick pics."
Anne Thompson writes in Variety 8/18/02: Amy Pascal spends two hours every morning, 5:30-7:30 a.m., with her 3-year-old son, Anthony. She tries to get home every night to put him to bed, and spends weekends with her family. She loves to hang out at the San Vincente market and Whole Foods.
"It's very calming," she says. "I no longer exercise. Certain things I had to give up."
She doesn't cook, but she collects cook books, and loves watching the Food Network. When the nanny arrives, Pascal gets dressed (usually in her signature black and white) and drives her black Range Rover to the studio. Her office door stays open so that her staff of 10 executives and two assistants can roam in and out. "Your job as a boss is to get the best work out of everybody," she says. "You can catch more bees with honey. Women are good managers because they've learned the art of compromise. We can win secretly, have our own ideas and let them be someone else's. I'll take responsibility if things go bad."
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LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- Columbia Pictures chairman Amy Pascal lashed out Friday at people who use the term "chick flick" and said it would be a great loss if movies with a female perspective were not made. She was accepting one of the Crystal Awards bestowed by Women in Film.
Pascal received the award in part because of her history of developing and producing such critically and commercially successful women-driven films as "A League of Their Own," "Single White Female," "Little Women" and "Charlie's Angels."
"Should we allow ourselves to be embarrassed about making movies about the one thing that makes us unique?" she asked an audience of more than 1,300, the majority of them women, at the 25th annual Crystal Awards ceremony at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. "And if we do make some of these movies, does anyone with a brain in their head actually believe we can't do anything else?"
"When we allow movies to even be called chick flicks, we are diluting and diminishing ourselves. Do we really want to be genderless?" she asked. "And if we could assimilate and could be genderless, would that make the movies we're making more profitable?
"I want to be proud that girls all over America join baseball teams because of 'A League of Their Own.' And I'm glad that the message in 'Charlie's Angels' was that girls can be sexy and smart at the same time. If we allow ourselves to be so self-conscious that these movies don't get made, that's a loss for everyone."
Pascal's speech doled out plenty of sarcasm. She recalled how she read a Washington Post article saying that she had unveiled Hollywood's first feminist slate. "So I thought, 'OK, they must be talking about two of our biggest hits that year.' " Pascal said. "OK, clearly 'Big Daddy' is a big chick flick; I think it was the probing parental insight that did it. No, no, no; it was definitely that laundry room scene in 'Stuart Little.' "
Clues to Pascal's impassioned speech were discernible moments before she was called to the stage. Producer Lucy Fisher, who along with producer Doug Wick presented the award to Pascal, noted that when she was a Sony executive, she gauged Pascal's mood by her hairstyle. If Pascal's hair was curly, Fisher said, she would be breezy, happy and fresh. If it was straight, she would be hard and businesslike. Moments later, Pascal took the stage sporting straight hair.