Movie producer, cancer advocate Laura Ziskin dies at 61
Laura Ziskin, whose illustrious career as a movie producer spans more than 20 films over 30 years of work, succumbed to breast cancer on Sunday, June 12, after a seven-year fight, reported Hollywood.com. A longtime cancer activist, the famed Hollywood producer is also known for co-founding Stand Up to Cancer in 2008, a well-respected charitable organization that supports innovative research.
While her name might not ring a bell, the movies she helped create certainly will. She produced the 1990 romantic comedy “Pretty Women,” the film that catapulted Julia Roberts to fame, plus the Spider-Man series -- which pulled in about $2.5 billion internationally -- and “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. Ziskin was also in the spotlight as the first woman to produce the Academy Awards ceremonies, tackling both the 2002 and 2007 shows. Additionally, she served as president of Fox 2000, a 20th Century Fox offshoot, from 1995 to 1999.
Ziskin’s battle with breast cancer started in 2004. After several treatments, the cancer receded, only to return five years later, having spread to her liver and bones. At age 61, she passed away at her home in Santa Monica.
Ziskin became an unflagging supporter of innovative cancer treatments. Collaborating with women in the entertainment and media field – including Sherry Lansing, Katie Couric, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Ellen Ziffren, Pam Williams, Noreen Fraser, Lisa Paulsen and Kathleen Lobb – she formed Stand Up to Cancer. The organization fights cancer by leveraging the industry’s resources to fund new approaches to cancer research. It offers “Dream Team Grants” to scientists who work collaboratively on disease research and finances novel treatments, enabling patients to receive new therapies promptly.
"Laura was the heart and soul of Stand Up To Cancer," said SU2C co-founder Sherry Lansing, in a statement to Stand Up To Cancer. "She dreamed big, and attacked every challenge with creativity, passion, perseverance and intelligence."
Her years of work have not gone unnoticed. This year Ziskin was honored with The Producers Guild of America's Visionary Award for her career in film production and her anti-cancer efforts.
"We realized we had the potential to make cancer the first-tier issue it needs to be and to impact how cancer is treated by using our skills as producers and quite literally 'putting on a show.' Stand Up To Cancer is my most important production, and I am so touched and proud that the PGA is honoring us for it,” Ziskin said of the charity’s work, reported Stand Up to Cancer.
Beyond Stand Up to Cancer, Ziskin’s activism included work with Education First and the National Council for Jewish Women. She is widely credited with forging the way for future female movie producers to find success in Hollywood.
She is survived by her screenwriter husband, Alvin Sargent, and her daughter from a previous marriage, producer Julia Barry, both of whom ask that people continue to support the work of Stand Up To Cancer by making a donation in Ziskin’s name through the organization’s website: http://su2c.org.