Today the famed producer Richard D. Zanuck has passed away at the age of 77 from an apparent heart attack. If Zanuck had not gambled on a little known director named Steven Spielberg back in the mid 70′s, we may never have been afraid to go in the water.
Zanuck gave Spielberg is first directing job, The Sugarland Express and helped Spielberg adapt Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws into a hit movie and arguably the world’s first summer blockbuster.
The son of actress Virginia Fox and 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck, Richard had Hollywood in his blood. As an independent producer and during time served as a top exec at Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox, Zanuck worked with many acclaimed directors including Ron Howard, quite frequently with Tim Burton, and of course Spielberg,
Zanuck is credited with saying “This is a business where you make decisions using your gut.” Not everyone in Hollywood may feel that way, but Zanuck did and that is why he is credited on a number of amazing films. Jaws is probably the best example of that. So many things went wrong during the shoot but the cast and crew persisted and sinking fake shark and all, they created a masterpiece. A film that is listed in almost everyone I knows top ten. It has resonated with us all and may be the reason some of us are about as un-tanned as a white napkin.
In part Zanuck can share responsibility for The Exorcist, The Sound of Music, Driving Miss Daisy, one of the wackiest action films ever The Eiger Sanction (which you will have an appreciation of if you are a Boondock Saints II fan), and so much more.
Zanuck had a career he could be proud of. And although he is responsible for some of the greatest films, one could also argue that if not for Zanuck/Jaws, we wouldn’t have such fun fare like Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus and that would be a shame.
Rest in peach Mr. Zanuck, and thank you.