Laura Ziskin says she’s obsessed with the power of the media. “If the Founding Fathers could have envisioned an institution as powerful as the broadcast media, they would have instituted some checks and balances,” she says.
The producing vet saw this obsession come to fruition when she produced “Hero” and “To Die For,” two films that tackled the influence of the media in both sarcastic and cynical tones — works that in 1992 and 1995 were way ahead of the curve of the public’s appetite today for all things celebrity. Ziskin says filmmaking by studios today is “really more about ideas that can cut through the marketplace, than great stories.”
Ziskin believes her latest film, “Spider-Man 3,” which has grossed north of $882 million worldwide, has both — but says getting good films greenlit is more of an uphill struggle than ever. “It’s much tougher than when I started out 25 years ago,” she says. “You have to believe in something so strongly that after 25 people have told you that you are wrong and they don’t want to do it, that you can still stand up and say, ‘I know I’m right.’ ”
After having served as a producer of the 2002 Academy Awards, she returned to produce this year’s show, for which she tapped Ellen Degeneres to host. The Oscarcast collected nine Emmy noms.
Ziskin has been both a buyer and a seller: For six years, she ran Fox 2000, a job she says she took to add routine to her life as a new mother and because it “felt very entrepreneurial.” As a seller, she has the “Spider-Man” franchise wired (“Spider-Man 4” is being planned) as well as a number of her pet projects in development.
“Laura has phenomenal taste,” says “The Devil Wears Prada” producer Wendy Finerman, whom Ziskin signed to an overall deal at Fox 2000. “And once she gets behind something, she will never give up until she sees her vision come to fruition. Laura is also so honest and straightforward, which in this business is such a rarity that it’s a pleasure to do business with her.”
Vocation: “Journeyman producer”
Recent breakthrough: “Doing the Academy Awards the second time and knowing so much better how to do it than I did the first time.”
Role models: “Hannah Weinstein and Jerry Hellman — both brilliant producers.”
Career mantra: “Movies aren’t made, they are forced into existence.”
What’s next: “A remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’ — I’ve been trying to get it made for 20 years.”