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Laura Ziskin grew up in the San Fernando Valley. She started in show business writing for game shows. Then she became a development executive. She helped Jon Peters make A STAR IS BORN (1976).
Ziskin was associate producer of 1978's The Eyes of Laura Mars. She then started Fogwood Films with Sally Field. She produced the TV-movie One Cooks, the Other Doesn't (1983) as well as the feature Murphy's Romance (1985).
Ziskin produced the thriller "No Way Out" (1987), pushing the careers of Kevin Costner and Sean Young. In 1988, she and partner Ian Sander produced two films featuring Dennis Quaid, the remake of "D.O.A." and Taylor Hackford's "Everybody's All-American." (both 1988).
Ziskin's biggest success came with the hit comedy "Pretty Woman" (1990), which Ziskin executive produced for Touchstone. Next she produced the duds "What About Bob?" and "The Doctor."
Ziskin has an annoying tendency to wag her finger at those below her in power.
"(Another producer) turned to me when we were shooting No Way Out, and he said, 'It's the only business in the world where you hire someone who becomes your boss!'
"There has been an erosion of the producer's role to the point where the studios don't get it. There are big movies where the studio says, 'We are not going to have a producer. We're going to produce it (ourselves).' As producers, you kind of laugh. What's producing? It's this succession of decisions that are made every second of the day. Sometimes they are made at 10 o'clock at night in the cutting room; sometimes they are made driving in the van on a location scout. Big, giant decisions are made every step of the way while you are making a movie that the producer is responsible for or party to. By the time the studio is aware of any issues, there will be 9,000 decisions that have led up to (them). That they would think they could control the process is insane." (THR, 2/28/02)
Ziskin made 1992's Hero, a delightful film, for Columbia. She directed her first short film in 1994, "Oh, What a Day! 1914" and produced "To Die For" (1995), "under the banner of Laura Ziskin Productions. By the time that last film was in release, however, she had been appointed president of Fox 2000, one of several off-shoots 20th-Century-Fox developed to speed up their production and distribution. Since the formation of Fox 2000, Ziskin rounded up an impressive number of hot directors (i.e., David Fincher, John N Smith, Carl Franklin) and writers (e.g., Jon Robin Baitz, David Ives, Lisa Loomer), though most of their film projects never got beyond the development process. Among those released were Edward Zwick's Gulf War drama "Courage Under Fire" and the romantic comedy "One Fine Day" (both 1996) and Pat O'Connor's "Inventing the Abbotts" and the big-budget disaster film "Volcano" (both 1997).
"In 1996, Fox 2000 also pooled resources with Fox Searchlight to distribute Anthony Minghella's acclaimed, award-winning "The English Patient". After nearly five years on the job, Ziskin resigned from Fox 2000 in November 1999 and within a month had a production deal at Columbia. After being tapped to serve as the first solo female producer of an Academy Awards telecast in 2002, she returned to the big screen with the highly anticipated feature version of "Spider-Man"." (Hollywood.com)
David Poland writes 7/8/00: "I have no problem with Laura Ziskin as a producer. I like her films (Pretty Woman, No Way Out, Everybody's All-American, What About Bob?, To Die For, etc.) and for the most part, they make money. But what in hell is she doing as the producer of Spider-Man for Sam Raimi and Columbia Pictures? The idea of Scott "I'm so clever, but I think plot is for suckers" Rosenberg rewriting the movie is scary enough, but is this recent deal designed to make sure that Sony is stuck with a loser after they dump the current administration? How many effects movies has Ziskin done? Zero. How many action movies has Ziskin done? Zero. In fact, I don't think there is a single second of CG in any movie Ziskin has done. Has she ever had a below-the-line budget of over $30 million to deal with? Again, I respect this woman's work. But even indie producer Christine Vachon seems infinitely more qualified for this particular gig than Ziskin."
Producer Laura Ziskin ("Spider-Man," "As Good as It Gets") tells the Washington Post 11/15/02: "It's our dirty little secret: It's a lifestyle issue. Why aren't there more women directors? Because we want to have husbands and children and homes. A studio executive, a producer, these are jobs you can do with children. Directing is not conducive to that."