June 13, 2011
In Memoriam: Laura Ziskin ‘73
Pioneering Producer and Philanthropist
Producer's Guild of America Visionary Award-winning producer, philanthropist, SCA Board of Councilors’ member and alumnae Laura Ziskin '73, died at her home in Santa Monica after a long battle with breast cancer. She was sixty-one.
“The entertainment industry has lost an extraordinary creative producer with an incomparable sense for storytelling, and we are deeply saddened, ” said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. “She was a role model for the SCA family not only for her trailblazing career, but for how she lived her life.”
Ziskin was born in the San Fernando Valley and had a brief career as a writer for game shows immediately following her graduation from SCA. After a brief stint working as producer Jon Peters’ personal assistant and later, a development executive, Ziskin began her long and successful career as a producer in both the independent and studio arenas. In 1984, Ziskin formed Fogwood Films with actress Sally Field. Her credits with Fogwood include No Way Out, the remake of D.O.A and Everyone's All-American.
“A major loss,” said Academy Award-nominated producer and Peter Stark Producing Program chair Lawrence Turman, of Ziskin, who taught in the Stark Program. “Laura was a friend and a comrade in arms. Her legacy is already operative: the present and incoming Peter Stark classes already have fifteen women and ten men.”
Ziskin served as executive producer of the canonical 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman, and in 1995, produced To Die For, her first film under the banner of Laura Ziskin Productions. In 2002, Ziskin reached two milestones by being the first woman to produce the Academy Awards solo and by producing the worldwide smash Spider-Man. Ziskin produced each of the films in the trilogy, which went onto become Sony Pictures’ most successful franchise.
"Laura has been a creative force in our industry for decades and she will be missed,” said Michael Taylor, Chair of the Division of Film & Television Production. “She was an outstanding film and television producer, a successful studio executive, and an active citizen leading the charge for positive social change. She will remain an inspiration for students at USC and for all of us who knew her."
In addition to her work in the industry, in 2008, Ziskin was the driving force behind the launch of the Stand Up to Cancer foundation, which aims to raise significant funds for translational cancer research through online and televised efforts.
Ziskin was a long-time friend of the School of Cinematic Arts, and in 1999, received the Mary Pickford Award for distinguished alumni.