Producer Hill dies at 54

'Halloween' scribe praised as pioneer in the business

Producer and writer Debra Hill died Monday of cancer in Los Angeles. She was 54.

She had been working on several projects, including a film about New York Port Authority police officers who survived the Sept. 11 attacks. With John Carpenter and David Foster, she was a producer on Revolution’s upcoming remake of “The Fog.”

Born in Haddonfield, N.J., Hill grew up in Philadelphia. She began as a production assistant on adventure documentaries, working up to films as a script supervisor. From there she landed jobs as assistant director and second unit director and became associated with Carpenter, who was then a rising young helmer. Hill’s big break came in horror films when she and director Carpenter co-wrote the genre hit “Halloween.”

The 1979 film, directed by Carpenter and produced by Hill, starred a 20-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis as a baby sitter terrorized by a murderous psychopath. Made on a $300,000 budget, it grossed $60 million worldwide and launched a chain of sequels.

Hill, Carpenter and Curtis returned for “Halloween II,” and Hill and Carpenter were involved in the writing of several later sequels including “Halloween: Resurrection,” “Halloween 5” and “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.”

The two also collaborated on 1980’s “The Fog” and 1981’s “Escape From New York.”

After the “Halloween” series, Hill joined Lynda Obst in forming a production company in 1986 that made “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” both directed by Chris Columbus, and Terry Gilliam’s “The Fisher King,” with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

In 1988, she partnered with Walt Disney Pictures to produce feature “Gross Anatomy,” short films for the Walt Disney theme park and an NBC special for Disneyland’s 35th anniversary.

Films she produced include “The Dead Zone,” “Head Office” and “Clue.” She also produced a series of B-movie remakes for HBO including titles such as “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “Reform School Girls.”

Carpenter praised her as “a real pioneer in this business.”

“Unlike many producers, she came from the crew ranks. I think they’re the most underappreciated people, and they work the hardest,” he said. “She had experienced the ins and the outs and had a thorough understanding of what it took to make a picture.”

When she was honored by Women in Film in 2003, Hill said, “I hope some day there won’t be a need for Women in Film. That it will be People in Film. That it will be equal pay, equal rights and equal job opportunities for everybody.”

She is survived by her parents and a brother.

Donations may be made to Our House, 1950 Sawtelle Blvd. Suite 255, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or Friends Indeed, 594 Broadway, Suite 706, New York, NY 10012.

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