Film Producer Laura Ziskin Dies

Film producer Laura Ziskin has died. She was responsible for such films as Spider-Man, Fight Club and As Good As It Gets.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

She was one of the first women to make it as a major Hollywood producer. Laura Ziskin died yesterday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 61. Ziskin is perhaps best known for producing the "Spiderman" movies.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this remembrance.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Laura Ziskin has been called a creature of Hollywood. Her first jobs were writing for TV game shows, and then as an assistant to filmmaker Jon Peters. She also believed women needed to take control of their careers.

In 1984, she and Sally Field founded the production company Fogwood Films and made "Murphy's Romance," about a divorced mother who moves to a small town to run a ranch.

(Soundbite of movie, "Murphy's Romance")

Ms. SALLY FIELD (Actress): (as Emma Moriarty) What will I do with my life, Murphy?

Mr. JAMES GARNER (Actor): (as Murphy Jones) Get on with it.

Ms. FIELD: I mean, should I get rid of the ranch? Should I dye my hair? Put an ad in the singles columns? What? Tell me what.

Mr. GARNER: You're a big girl.

BLAIR: From there, Laura Ziskin went on to produce a string of hits, like the thriller "No Way Out," and the romantic comedy "Pretty Woman."

(Soundbite of movie, "Pretty Woman")

Mr. RICHARD GERE (Actor): (as Edward Lewis) Something's missing.

Ms. JULIA ROBERTS (Actress): (as Vivian Ward) Well, nothing else is going to fit into this dress, I'll tell you that.

Mr. GERE: Maybe something in this box.

Ms. PAM WILLIAMS (Film Producer): Producing is just in her body. It's what she does.

BLAIR: Pam Williams has been Laura Ziskin's producing partner for the last 11 years. She says it's a job that takes really good leadership skills and guts, and Ziskin had both.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Any situation she would find herself in, she would jump in, organize it, tell people what to do - and it would be better because of it.

(Soundbite of movie, "Spiderman")

Mr. TOBEY MAGUIRE (Actor): (as Peter Parker) I'm Spiderman.

BLAIR: Pam Williams says the "Spiderman" franchise benefited from Laura Ziskin's love of great storytelling.

Ms. WILLIAMS: You see a lot of superhero movies out here where it's all about the special effects, and Laura would say, no kid goes to bed and says Mommy, tell me about a special effect. They say Mommy - you know - tell me a story.

BLAIR: In 2008, Laura Ziskin helped launch Stand Up to Cancer, which raises money for cancer research. And she used every opportunity to talk about the disease to an audience.

Ms. LAURA ZISKIN (Film Producer): I'm hopping mad about the state of cancer research, and the fact that 1,500 Americans die every single day from cancer. That means 1,500 Americans are going to die today.

BLAIR: Laura Ziskin died Sunday at her home in Santa Monica.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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