With a name like Zanuck, the film industry naturally has expectations.
“When I first got into this business, I was considered the ne’er-do-well son must-hire,” says producer Dean Zanuck — son of Richard (“Jaws,” “The Verdict”), grandson of original movie mogul Darryl.
He started out as a p.a. and film executive on his dad’s sets before becoming a full-fledged producer with “Road to Perdition.”
“It actually prompted me to work even harder,” the younger Zanuck says. “I wasn’t the slacker throwing his name around.”
Now Zanuck is on his own, having secured the financing for and solely produced the indie “Get Low,” a period drama based on a true story about a mysterious Tennessee recluse (played by Robert Duvall) who stages his own funeral. Set to bow in a Gala slot at Toronto, it’s the inaugural film for Zanuck Independent, which he intends to be a house for original stories.
“Given how everyone’s rehashing old ideas, making remakes or sequels, this felt like a breath of fresh air creatively,” says Zanuck, who first read the script in 2001 and sweated out years of ups and downs before the film coalesced. “With indies, you need a single-minded purpose to get liftoff. As a producer, you’ve got to be the catalyst. No one’s going to do it for you. So while producing something like ‘Road to Perdition’ is a good ego-stroker, something like ‘Get Low’ is far more rewarding. I grew leaps and bounds from an experience standpoint.”
“He has the passion to fight for good material,” writes Richard D. Zanuck in an email to Variety. “He is steadfast in his determination, and his enthusiasm and belief in a good story knows no bounds.”
Dean Zanuck is hopeful he can make more than a film “every blue moon,” he says, and he’s got a diverse slate of projects, including a horror story based on an Italian novella, an animated rock musical and a prison escape drama called “Liberty Lane.”
“But it starts by taking on material that just isn’t getting made,” he says. “My tastes are not really genre. My wife keeps telling me, ‘Can’t you just make “Cheaper by the Dozen” or something?'”
HOME BASE: Beverly Hills
INSPIRED BY: “My three favorite movies growing up were ‘Jaws,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Grease.’ But as I got older, the films my dad produced — ‘The Verdict,’ ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ — I really admired for their quality and caliber.”