Starting out as a camera operator and one of the first female members of the Hollywood Electronic Camera Union, Lauren Shuler Donner made a name for herself as one of the most productive and flourishing producers in Hollywood. Up to now, her films have grossed more than $2 billion globally. Specializing in mainstream youth and family focused films, Shuler Donner is perhaps best known as the producer of the highly successful “X-Men” films (2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009) and for producing such popular movies as “Mr. Mom” (1983), “St. Elmo's Fire” (1985), “Pretty In Pink” (1986), “Dave” (1993), “Free Willy” (1993), “You've Got Mail” (1998), “Bulworth” (1998), “Any Given Sunday” (1999) and “Constantine” (2005). She has also collaborated with husband Richard Donner, whom she married in 1985, on several projects, including “Radio Flyer” (1992) and “Assassins” (1995). For her impressing contribution to the motion picture industry, the Cleveland, Ohio, native was honored with the Producer Icon Award from Premiere Magazine at the 2001 Annual Women in Film Luncheon and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Away from producing, Shuler Donner and her husband received a 2000 Green Cross Millennium Award for Entertainment Industry Environmental Leadership from Global Green USA, the Mikhail Gorbachev environmental organization. They have also earned honors from PETA, the American Cancer Society and the Doctors Without Borders international medical organization. Shuler Donner has participated in such organizations as Hollygrove Children's Home, TreePeople and Women in Film. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Advisory Board of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Board of Directors for the Producer's Guild and the Board of Governors for the Producers Council for Producers Guild of America. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Producer's Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and on the Board of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.
Childhood and Family:
Lauren Diane Shuler was born on June 23, 1949, in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Shaker Heights High School in Cleveland and received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in film and communication from Boston University's School of Public Communications in Boston, Massachusetts.
Lauren married filmmaker Richard Donner in 1985.
After completing her education, Lauren Shuler Donner began her career as a camera operator, during which time she shot rock concerts, situation comedies and television films. She then became an associate producer for ABC's “Wide World of Entertainment.” She later joined Motown Productions and made her debut with the company as an associate producer of “Thank God It's Friday” (1978), a film directed by Robert Klane. The next year, she produced her first TV film, “Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill,” an applauded dramatic comedy written and directed by Joel Schumacher.
However, Shuler Donner did not make her feature film producing debut until four years later when she collaborated with writer John Hughes for “Mr. Mom” (1983). Directed by Stan Dragoti and starring Michael Keaton, the comedy was a smash hit and named one the year's top 10 grossing films. “Ladyhawke,” a romance starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, followed in 1985. The film marked her first affiliation with future husband, director Richard Donner. She gained further popularity by producing two of the famous “brat pack films” in the 1980s, “St. Elmo's Fire” (1985), directed by Joel Schumacher, and “Pretty In Pink” (1986), which was directed by Howard Deutch and written by John Hughes. She filled in the rest of decade by serving as an executive producer for the TV film “Cameo by Night” (1987), starring Sela Ward, and as a producer for the action film “Three Fugitives” (1989), which starred Nick Nolte, Martin Short and Sarah Rowland Doroff.
In 1992, Shuler produced her husband's movie “Radio Flyer.” She also had a bit part as a nurse in the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover vehicle “Lethal Weapon 3,” which was also directed by her husband.
1993 marked Shuler Donner's banner year. First, she produced the praised comedy “Dave,” which was helmed by Ivan Reitman and starred Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, and then the family film “Free Willy,” which received extensive praise for its touching story. The films were both included in the top ten movies of the year and “Dave” nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Picture-Comedy.
The success of “Free Willy” led to the animated adventure series of the same name in 1994 and the inevitable sequel in 1995, “Free Willy 2,” with Shuler Donner serving as executive producer and producer, respectively. In between, she worked with director Donald Petrie for “The Favor” (1994) and executive produced such films as “Assassins” (1995), which was directed by her husband, Mick Jackson's “Volcano” (1997), which starred Tommy Lee Jones, “Free Willy 3: The Rescue” (1997) and Warren Beatty's political satire “Bulworth,” which was noted as one of the best films of 1998. She returned as a producer for the Nora Ephron blockbuster hit “You've Got Mail” (1998), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and Oliver Stone's sport themed “Any Given Sunday” (1999), which starred Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid and Jamie Foxx.
Entering the new millennium, Shuler Donner was back in the limelight as the producer of the massive hit “X-Men” (2000), which was directed by Bryan Singer and starred Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn and Patrick Stewart. It was followed by the sequel “X2: X-Men United” (2003), which also received similar commercial success and grossed over $200 million internationally in the first week of its release. She returned to the “XMen” franchise three years later with “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), which was directed by Brett Ratner.
Outside her work on “XMen,” Shuler Donner also executive produced or produced movies like “Out Cold” (2001), jointly helmed by Brendan and Emmett Malloy, the Ashton Kutcher/Brittany Murphy romantic comedy “Just Married” (2003) for director Shawn Levy, “Timeline” (2003), Keanu Reeves' “Constantine” (2005) and Andy Fickman's “She's the Man” (2006). After “X-Men 3,” she lent her producing talents to Paul Feig's “Unaccompanied Minors” (2006) and the basketball film “Semi-Pro” (2008), which starred Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson.
As for her upcoming projects, Lauren will be producing “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire Assistant” (2009, starring Salma Hayek), her husband’s “Sam and George” (2010), and the sequels “Constantine 2” (2012) and X-Men Origins: Magneto (2011). She recently completed “The Secret Life of Bees” (2008), Thor Freudenthal’s “Hotel for Dogs” (2009) and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009).
American Cancer Society: American Spirit Award, 2006
Annual Women in Film Luncheon: Producer Icon Award, 2001 (Premiere Magazine)
Green Cross Millennium: Entertainment Industry Environmental Leadership award, 2000