Richard D. Zanuck
Birth Date:
December 13, 1934
Birth Place:
Los Angeles, California, USA
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Driving Miss Daisy


Academy Award winning American producer Richard D. Zanuck first made a name for himself as an executive vice president with 20th Century Fox before gaining huge success as the producing partner of David Brown during the 1970s and the 1980s thanks largely to their work on “Jaws” (1975), “The Verdict” (1982) and “Cocoon” (1985). Zanuck shared Oscar nominations for the first two films, but did not take home the prestigious trophy until “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), his first film produced under The Zanuck Company, a production house he founded with wife Lili Fini Zanuck. In addition to being a major box office success, the film became a favorite among critics. Zanuck also won a PGA Award and a BAFTA nomination for his work on the film. A year after winning his Oscar, the creative producer was given the renowned Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1991 Academy Awards ceremony, after which he made history for being the only second generation person ever to receive the award, along with his father Darryl F. Zanuck. He further built his reputation as a producer of box office movies with “Deep Impact” (1998), a reunion with Brown, the Tim Burton helmed films “Planet of the Apes” (2001), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007), and “Yes Man” (2008) for director Peyton Reed. Zanuck also produced Burton’s critically acclaimed drama “Big Fish” (2003), for which he netted a BAFTA nomination, and “Alice in Wonderland,” which is slated for a March 2010 release. In 2000, he was handed an Emmy nomination for producing “The 72nd Annual Academy Awards.”

In the film industry since his 20s, Zanuck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to television. He won the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures in 1993 and the Hollywood Film Award for Outstanding Achievement in Producing in 1998. In 2001, he was handed a ShoWest Award for Producer of the Year. Zanuck also received the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Zanuck has been married three times. He has two daughters with first wife Lili Gentle (together 1958 to 1968) and two sons with second wife Linda Harrison (together from 1969 to 1978). He married producing partner Lili Fini Zanuck in September 1978.

Son of Darryl F Zanuck

Childhood and Family:

Richard Darryl Zanuck was born on December 13, 1934, in Los Angeles, California. Richard is the son of Darryl F Zanuck (born on September 5, 1902; died on December 22, 1979), who was a renowned Hollywood producer and served as the head of 20th Century Fox, and his mother, Virginia Fox (born on April 19, 1902; died on October 14, 1982), was an actress. Richard has two sisters, Darrylin Zanuck and Susan Marie Zanuck. He attended Harvard Military Academy in Los Angeles and got a BA degree from Stanford University in Stanford, California. It was while at Stanford that Richard got his first taste in the cinematic industry by working for the story department of 20th Century Fox.

On January 14, 1958, Richard married actress Lili Gentle (born on March 4, 1940), but the couple divorced in 1968. They have two daughters, Virginia Zanuck (born in October 1959) and Janet Zanuck (born in September 1960). Richard then married actress and model Linda Harrison (born on July 24, 1945) on October 26, 1969. Their first son, Harrison R Zanuck, was born in February 1971. Their second son, Dean F Zanuck, followed in August 1972. Richard and his second wife divorced in 1978. He married his present wife, producer Lili Fini Zanuck (born on April 2, 1954), on September 23, 1978.



The offspring of a legendary studio head, young Richard D. Zanuck often accompanied his father to the 20th Century Fox studio and later helped review rough cuts for studio executives. While attending Stanford University, Zanuck launched his career when he worked for the Fox studio story department. Two years later, the then 22 year old Zanuck became the vice president of Darryl F Zanuck Productions with responsibilities for U.S. operations. He was also an assistant to his father when the senior Zanuck produced “The Sun Also Rises” (1956) and “Islands in the Sun” (1957). By age 25, Zanuck had made his producing debut with the Cannes' Golden Palm nominated drama “Compulsion” (1959), which was directed by Richard Fleischer. He then shared the producing credits with his father on “Sanctuary” (1961), an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel, and the George Cukor directed “The Chapman Report” (1962), based on the Irving Wallace best selling novel of the same name.

In 1961, Zanuck was appointed executive vice president in charge of production at 20th Century Fox. He was promoted to president of the Fox studio in 1969. During his eight years in production, the Fox studio amassed more than 150 nominations at the Academy Awards with such movies as “The Sound of Music” (1965), “Patton” (1970) and “The French Connection” (1971). Despite the success, the company struggled with financial difficulties and Zanuck was eventually fired by his father in 1970. He recalled, “It was hard to see my father go through that. I recovered from being fired. I don'' think he ever did.”

After being discharged from Fox, Zanuck became the senior executive vice president at Warner Bros. in 1971. He resigned the following year to become an independent producer. Along with David Brown, he founded the production company “The Zanuck/Brown Company” in 1972 and released the film “Sssssss” (1973) under the banner of his newly established company. The film was nominated for a Golden Scroll for Best Science Fiction Film at the 1975 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.

The Zanuck/Brown Co. went on to become one of the industry's most important and flourishing independent production companies thanks to overseeing a series of box office successes, including “The Sting,” “The Sugarland Express” and “Jaws.” The caper film “The Sting” (1973) collected over $160 million at the box office and won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (George Roy Hill). The Steven Spielberg directorial debut, “The Sugarland Express” (1974), where Zanuck served as a producer (with Brown), won the Best Screenplay honor at the Cannes Film Festival. The fourth film “Jaws” (1975), also directed by Spielberg, grossed over $470 million at the box office worldwide against a $7 million budget and won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Music, Original Score and Best Film Editing. With his producing partner Brown, Zanuck jointly picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The duo also produced the commercially successful sequel “Jaws 2” (1978) for director Jeannot Szwarc. During the 1970s, Zanuck and Brown also collaborated on other films like Gilbert Moses' “Willie Dynamite” (1974), “The Black Windmill” (1974), Robert Ellis Miller's “The Girl from Petrovka” (1974) and Clint Eastwood's “The Eiger Sanction” (1975).

Following the box office dud “The Island” (1980) and the poorly received “Neighbors” (1981), adapted from a book by Thomas Berger, Zanuck was put back in the limelight as the producer of “The Verdict” (1982), a courtroom drama directed by Sidney Lumet that was adapted by David Mamet from a novel by Barry Reed. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Paul Newman), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (James Mason) and Best Picture, which became Zanuck's second nomination at the prestigious gala. The following year found the Zanuck/Brown Company based at Warner Bros.

Zanuck was reunited with Brown for the Zanuck/Brown release “Cocoon” (1985), which was directed by Ron Howard and starred Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Zanuck's former wife Linda Harrison. The science fiction movie enjoyed success at the box office and won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Don Ameche) and Best Effects, Visual Effects. Zanuck's third wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, joined the producing team for the film. Zanuck and Brown would continue to work together in “Target” (1985, directed by Arthur Penn and starred Matt Dillon) and the installment “Cocoon: The Return” (1988) before disbanding their partnership in 1988. He then founded The Zanuck Company with wife Lili Fini Zanuck.

Under his new production company, Zanuck made an auspicious debut with “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), an adaptation of Alfred Uhry's play of the same name. Directed by Bruce Beresford and scripted by Uhry, the movie was a huge box office hit by taking in $145.8 million against a production cost of $7.5 million. Also a critical success, the film picked up four Academy Awards from nine nominations, including the Best Picture Award for Zanuck. In addition to his Oscar, Zanuck also received a PGA for Motion Picture Producer of the Year, the 1990 Wise Owl Award (2nd place) for Television and Theatrical Film Fiction from the Retirement Research Foundation, and a BAFTA nomination for Best Film.

In 1991, Zanuck served as a producer on his wife's feature film directorial debut “Rush,” a drama based on a novel written by Kim Wozencraft. The film, which starred Jason Patric, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sam Elliott, grossed over $7 million in the U.S. He then turned to TV for the 1992 TV movie spin-off “Driving Miss Daisy,” for which he served as executive producer. He returned to motion pictures to produce Bruce Beresford's “Rich in Love” (1993), Mike Jackson's “Clean Slate” (1994), Walter Hill's “Wild Bill” (1995), Lee Tamahoni's “Mulholland Falls” (1996) and Clint Eastwood's thriller “True Crime” (1999), which he produced with his wife and Eastwood. Zanuck also executive produced the thriller “Chain Reaction” (1996), directed by Andrew Davis. He did not score another box office hit until he was reunited with producing partner David Brown for the disaster movie “Deep Impact” (1998). Directed by Mimi Leder and starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave and Blair Underwood, the $75 million film earned $140 million on the domestic market and an additional $209 million internationally. However, it received mixed reviews from critics.

2000 saw Zanuck sign a production deal with DreamWorks. The same year, he collaborated with his wife to produce the annual telecast of the Academy Awards ceremony. The partnership resulted in an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. Also that year, he and Scott Rudin co-produced the war film “Rules of Engagement” (2000), which received widespread criticism for its portrayal of Arab characters. He began a partnership with director Tim Burton the next year for the science fiction movie “Planet of the Apes” (2001), a remake of 1968 film of the same name. The film collected over $68 million during its opening weekend, making it the second highest opening weekend of 2001, and went on to gross over $180 million in the U.S. and over $182 million internationally. With a total worldwide gross of over $362 million, “Planet of the Apes” became the ninth highest grossing film of 2001 worldwide.

After the science fiction film “Reign of Fire” (2002) and the period drama “Road to Perdition” (2002, earned a PGA nomination for Motion Picture Producer of the Year), Zanuck was reunited with Tim Burton to produce “Big Fish” (2003), a fantasy drama based on Daniel Wallace's 1998 novel of the same name. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Score, and four Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Zanuck picked up a BAFTA nomination in the category of Best Film. The two continued their partnership for the big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) and the feature film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Tony Award winning 1979 musical thriller “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007). Both movies were a success at the box office. In 2008, Zanuck co-produced (with David Heyman) the comedy film “Yes Man,” which was directed by Peyton Reed. The film was a hit at the box office, but earned mixed reviews from critics.

Zanuck recently served as an executive producer on “The Book of Eli,” a post-apocalyptic film directed by Albert and Allen Hughes and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson and Jennifer Beals. It was released on January 15, 2010. “Alice in Wonderland,” a reunion with Tim Burton, will be released on March 5, 2010, with Zanuck serving as producer alongside Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd.


  • Palm Springs International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004

  • ShoWest: Producer of the Year, 2001

  • Hollywood Film: Outstanding Achievement in Producing, 1998

  • PGA: Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Pictures, 1993

  • Academy Award: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, 1991

  • Academy Award: Best Picture, “Driving Miss Daisy,” 1990

  • PGA: Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award, “Driving Miss Daisy,” 1990

  • Retirement Research Foundation: 2nd place, Wise Owl Award, Television and Theatrical Film Fiction, “Driving Miss Daisy,” 1990

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