CEO of Paramount
Actress turned film studio executive Sherry Lansing served as CEO of
Paramount Pictures from 1992 to 2004. She became the first woman to
head a major Hollywood studio when she took control of 20th Century Fox
in 1980. She was also a partner in Jaffe/Lansing Productions with
Stanley R. Jaffe, and picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best
Picture for the box office smash “Fatal Attraction” (1987).
In 1996, Lansing received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her
contribution to motion picture, making her the first woman studio head
to do so. She also became the first woman studio head to place hand and
foot prints at Grauman's Chinese Theater in 2005. She is the recipient
of the 2002 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films
President's Award and the 1981 Women in Film Crystal Award.
Lansing serves on the boards of the American Red Cross, The
Carter Center, DonorsChoose, Qualcomm, Teach for America, The American
Association for Cancer Research, the Lasker Foundation and Friends of
Cancer Research. She received the Exemplary Leadership in Management
(ELM) Award, the highest honor from UCLA Anderson School of Management.
In 2011, she obliged $5 million to University of Chicago Laboratory
Schools to build a new arts wing, including a 250-seat performance
Childhood and Family:
Sherry Lansing was born Sherry Lee Heimann on July 31, 1944, in
Chicago, Illinois, to David Duhl, a real-estate investor, and Margo L
Lansing. Her father passed away when she was nine years old. Sherry
graduated from University of Chicago Lab Schools in 1962. She went on
to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University in
1966. While in college, she joined Sigma Delta Tau sorority.
In 1964, Sherry married Michael L. Brownstein, but they later divorced
in 1970. She then married Oscar winning director William Friedkin on
July 6, 1991. By this marriage, she has two stepsons, Jack and Cedric,
and one stepdaughter, Kelly Lange.
Producer of Fatal Attraction
After teaching math in Watts section of Los Angeles, Sherry Lansing
tried her hand as an actress and made her professional debut with a
guest spot in the CBS comedy series “The Good Guys” (1968),
starring Bob Denver, Herb Edelman, Joyce Van Patten and Jack Perkins.
She moved on to the big screen two years later when she landed a small
role as Susan in “Loving” (1970), a comedy/drama directed
by Irvin Kershner and starring George Segal and Eva Marie Saint. It was
followed by a role as Susana Dosamantes' friend, Amelita, in the Howard
Hawks Western movie “Rio Lobo” (1970), starring John Wayne.
It marked her last film to date as an actress. The Chicago native
continued to make guest appearances in such shows as “Dan
August” (1971), “Ironside” (1971) and
“Banyon” (1972) before deciding to leave the acting field
and turn her attention to the production end.
Lansing took a job as a script reader at MGM. She later became
executive story editor and then executive VP creative affairs at
MGM. In 1974, she joined Talent Associates, where she served as an
executive in charge of development. Lansing's career began to take
flight when she was appointed senior vice president in charge of
production at Columbia Pictures in 1977. Three years later, at age 35,
Lansing was appointed President of production at Twentieth Century-Fox,
making her the first woman to hold that position in the movie business.
In 1982, Lansing formed her own production company, Jaffe-Lansing
Productions, in partner with Stanley R. Jaffe. The company released an
invariable series of modest hits through Paramount, including
“Fatal Attraction” (1987, directed by Adrian Lyne), which
earned Lansing and Jaffe an Academy Award nomination in the category of
Best Picture, “The Accused” (1988, directed by Jonathan
Kaplan), “Black Rain” (1989, directed by Ridley Scott) and
“School Ties” (1992, directed by Robert Mandel). Lansing
made her debut as an executive producer on a TV show with “When
the Time Comes,” a 1987 ABC drama film starring Bonnie Bedelia,
Brad Davis and Terry O'Quinn.
After Jaffee was appointed president of Paramount Communications in
1990, Lansing was offered the chairmanship of Paramount Pictures'
Motion Picture Group two years later. During her stint at Paramount,
the studio experienced its longest and most successful string of
releases since the 1930s. She oversaw blockbuster hits like
“Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and
“Titanic.” In 1993, Lansing produced director Adrian Lyne's
next film, the adaptation of the Jack Engelhard novel, “Indecent
Proposal,” starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson,
Oliver Platt and Seymour Cassel. Although it was a success at the
box office, the drama received poor reviews from critics and won three
Razzies out of seven nominations, including Worst Picture, Worst
Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actor.
In 1996, Lansing signed five-year contract with Paramount to remain as
chair until 2000. The same year, her voice could be heard as
Angela in an episode of “Frasier” called “You Can Go
In 2004, after an almost unprecedented twelve year tenure, Lansing
stepped down as Paramount's studio chief. In the following year, she
founded The Sherry Lansing Foundation, which is dedicated to
raising awareness and funds for cancer research. She was handed the
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work in cancer research at the
79th Academy Awards in 2007. The award was presented to her by Tom
Cruise, her longtime friend and business partner. She recalled,
“I had seen him at an Oscar party a few days before, and he was
sort of cold to me. I was a little hurt. But then he gave me the Oscar
and he whispered, 'This is an honour, I really wanted to do this, you
know how much I love you, and at the party I couldn't say anything!' I
really love him. I've known Tom since he was 19 years old. I almost
started to cry!”
Academy Award: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, 2007
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: President's Award, 2002
Razzie: Worst Picture, “Indecent Proposal,” 1994
Women in Film Crystal: Crystal Award, 1981