· Born Dec. 13 in Los Angeles to Darryl F. Zanuck and Virginia Fox Zanuck. Zanuck Sr. was working at 20th Century Films at the time of Richard’s birth; the company would merge a year later with William Fox’s Fox Film Corp., where Zanuck is named chief of production.
· Graduates Harvard Military Academy in Los Angeles
· Attends Stanford U. in Stanford, Calif. (BA 1952-56)
· During summers, works in several departments of 20th Century Fox, including publicity and story departments, where he meets writer — and former Cosmopolitan managing editor — David Brown
· Graduates from Stanford, then serves a brief stint in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps on Long Island, N.Y.
· Later joins his father’s Paris-based independent company, Darryl F Zanuck (DFZ) Prods., with responsibilities for U.S. operations; Zanuck had left Fox earlier that year.
· Works as production assistant for his father on “Islands in the Sun” and “The Sun Also Rises.“
· Marries actress Lili Gentle; they have two daughters, Virginia (born 1959) and Janet (born 1960)
· “Compulsion,” a legal drama starring Orson Welles, is his debut as credited producer. Pic wins an acting award at Cannes — and first of three features Zanuck produces at Fox. 1961’s “Sanctuary” (helmed by Tony Richardson) and 1962’s “The Chapman Report” (directed by George Cukor) follow.
· Serves as production assistant on “The Longest Day,“ a three-hour WWII epic that Zanuck Sr. independently produces for Fox. The troubled studio, currently struggling with the ballooning budget of “Cleopatra,” brings the elder Zanuck onboard as production chief to rescue the studio, replacing Spyro Skouras.
· Richard is tapped exec VP in charge of production at Fox. At 28, Richard is the youngest studio production head in Hollywood.
· Fox’s expensive struggles to resuscitate the troubled Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor epic “Cleopatra” force the Zanucks to all but shutter the studio as it undergoes reorganization. About the only project allowed to continue was TV skein “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”
· David Brown named head of story operations.
· Low-budget “Zorba the Greek” delivers a nice return.
· Robert Wise musical “The Sound of Music,“ starring Julie Andrews, is a massive B.O. phenomenon — surpassing even “Gone With the Wind’s” record take, and is cited by some as the film that saved the studio. Zanuck greenlit the project, which had languished under Skouras.
· Pic returns a profit north of $140 million for the studio and nets $5 million alone from the sale of TV broadcast rights to ABC in 1966, a record deal at that time. The Acad also smiles upon it — honoring it as best picture and with four other Oscars.
· Promoted to president of 20th Century Fox after his father is named studio chairman-CEO.
· Marries Fox contract player and “Planet of the Apes” star Linda Harrison shortly after his divorce from his first wife. He has two sons with her, Harrison (born 1971) and Dean (born 1972).
· Finds himself in awkward position of firing the Japanese helmer who had been filming the Nippon half of WWII actioner “Tora! Tora! Tora!” after the studio deemed the footage unusable. The director? Akira Kurosawa.
· Paul Newman-Robert Redford starrer “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” a hit for the studio.
· Clashes with his father and the Fox board over his desire to make a pic from Philip Roth’s sexually frank novel “Portnoy’s Complaint.“ The project is ultimately sold to Warners.
· Despite strong B.O. performances by a pair of diametrically opposed war pics (picture Oscar winner “Patton” and Robert Altman’s “MASH”), Zanuck is fired as president by father after a spate of high-priced box office misfires and disappointments (“Doctor Dolittle,” “Star!” “Hello Dolly”) drain the studio. David Brown also is shown the door.
· Joins Warner Bros. as senior exec VP, as does Brown; both would resign 1½ years later after a tenure that saw the greenlighting of hits “Blazing Saddles” and “The Exorcist.”
· Zanuck Sr. ousted from 20th Century Fox.
· With Brown forms the Zanuck/Brown Co. at Universal Pictures.
· Z/B executive produces monster/snake pic “Sssssss,“ Zanuck’s first production outside Fox.
· Zanuck and Brown help producers Michael and Julia Phillips and Tony Bill and scribe David S. Ward get “The Sting” into production at U. Team brought the project to Z/B after they were instrumental in backing the quartet’s “Steelyard Blues” at Warners. Z/B receives a “presented by” credit on the pic, a success at the wickets and at the Academy Awards, where it wins picture and six other Oscars.
· Z/B co-produce Steven Spielberg‘s debut theatrical feature, “The Sugarland Express,” after tubthumping for the young TV helmer at U. It is a critical, if not commercial, success. (Zanuck’s son Harrison plays star Goldie Hawn’s baby son in the pic.)
· Z/B produces three other U pics this year, including Don Siegel’s “The Black Windmill.“
· Zanuck and Brown share the National Assn. of Theater Owners’ Producer of the Year Award.
· “Jaws” changes B.O. landscape upon its release in June, widely credited as the first “summer blockbuster,” which goes on to gross over $400 million worldwide. Z/B reteamed with Spielberg on the pic, which was adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel (acquired by Z/B prior to its publication). Zanuck earns first Oscar nom for the pic, though Spielberg is a notable no-show in the directing category.
· Z/B announces plans to produce sequel to 1939 classic “Gone With the Wind” called “Tara.” The U-MGM co-production, which was to be scripted by James Goldman, never comes to fruition and the option on th
e project lapses five years later.
· Marries former World Bank researcher Lili Fini a year after divorcing his second wife.
· A Spielberg-less “Jaws 2” earns solid biz but is a comedown from the original.
· Darryl Zanuck dies in December at 77.
· A second adaptation of a Benchley novel, “The Island,” starring Michael Caine, is a nonstarter at U.
· Zanuck/Brown moves its shingle to a familiar setting, 20th Century Fox, at the urging of studio prexy Alan Ladd Jr., who then left the studio just prior to Z/B’s arrival.
· Columbia Pictures distribs Z/B’s John Belushi-Dan Aykroyd comedy “Neighbors.“
· Earns second Oscar picture nom as producer of Sidney Lumet’s courtroom drama “The Verdict,“ with Paul Newman — noted as the brightest spot during studio prexy Sherry Lansing’s tenure at Fox. In fact, it is the sole project of a dozen pitched by Z/B to be filmed.
· Unhappy with Fox management, Z/B moves its base to Warner Bros.
· Lili Fini Zanuck joins the producing team on the Ron Howard hit “Cocoon,“ which she shepherded to the screen after reading David Saperstein’s unpublished novel in the early ’80s. Pic was a leftover from Z/B’s stint at Fox that received a greenlight from new studio chief Joe Wizan after the shingle left the lot (though Wizan himself was out the door by the time “Cocoon” hit theaters).
· The NATO honors the Zanucks and Brown with its Producer of the Year Award.
· Officially dissolves partnership with Brown, and with his wife forms the Zanuck Co., an enterprise that brings in entrepreneur Jerry Perenchio, a former owner of Lowes Theaters and Embassy Pictures.
· “Cocoon: The Return” released to middling business. It is the last film released under Z/B auspices (though Brown would receive an exec producer credit on the long-gestating production of “Driving Miss Daisy” the next year).
· First film released under new banner, “Driving Miss Daisy” receives the picture Academy Award, making Zanuck and his father the first and to date only two-generation pic winners. Film also wins actress Oscar for Jessica Tandy and two other statuettes.
· “Daisy,” which had been in development at Z/B, had been shopped to several studios before Warners finally made the pic — tightly budgeted under $10 million — which ultimately became a $100 million blockbuster.
· Paramount pacts with Zanuck Co. to produce and distribute pics.
· Zanuck and Brown receive Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Acad.
· Zanuck produces Lili Fini’s directorial debut, “Rush,” a drug-addiction drama released by MGM and adapted from Kim Wozencraft’s novel. Price paid for the rights — $1 million — at the time is among the highest ever for a debut author’s novel.
· Reteams with “Miss Daisy” helmer Bruce Beresford on Southern drama “Rich in Love,“ though with less than “Daisy” results. It is one of a spate of MGM-distributed Zanuck Co. releases in the ’90s — including Walter Hill’s “Wild Bill” (1995) and Lee Tamahori’s “Mulholland Falls” (1996).
· Zanuck and Brown honored with Producer Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award.
· Zanuck Co. signs exclusive production deal with Fox, which releases the shingle’s Keanu Reeves actioner “Chain Reaction” in 1996.
· Reunites with Brown as producer on disaster pic “Deep Impact,“ released through Paramount and DreamWorks. Pic, stemming from a concept that had been in the hopper at Z/B for over two decades, grosses over $350 million worldwide.
· Receives, with Brown, the ShowEast Lifetime Achievement Award.
· Zanuck Co. and Clint Eastwood produce the Warners thriller “True Crime,“ helmed by the actor-filmmaker.
· With wife, co-produces Academy Awards telecast — Lili Fini Zanuck is the first woman to serve in such a capacity.
· Par releases William Friedkin-directed military drama “Rules of Engagement.“
· Signs short-term first-look production deal with DreamWorks.
· Oversees production of Tim Burton’s ill-starred “Planet of the Apes” remake at Fox, which fades after an impressive opening weekend; ex-wife Linda Harrison, who plays Nova in the original, makes a brief cameo. (Zanuck gave the greenlight to the 1968 “Apes” at Fox.)
· With Brown, receives ShoWest Producer of the Year laurel.
· Son Dean — who along with brother Harrison works at his father’s shingle — is the man behind moody father-son gangster pic “Road to Perdition”; he brought the graphic novel upon which pic is based to his dad’s attention. The younger Zanuck received a producer credit on the Sam Mendes-helmed Tom Hanks starrer, released by Fox and DreamWorks; it ultimately tops $100 million at the wickets.
· In a rare Hollywood occurrence, in July Zanuck has two pics open head to head: “Perdition” and Rob Bowman’s apocalyptic dragon pic “Reign of Fire.“ They finish the weekend in the place and show positions (“Men in Black II” too difficult to unseat).
· Reteams with Burton on Columbia Pictures’ tall-tale pic “Big Fish.”
· Receives lifetime achievement laurels from both the Palm Springs Film Festival and France’s Deauville Festival of American Cinema.
· Dean Zanuck departs the Zanuck Co. to become an independent producer under the banner DFZ Prods.
· For the third time, Burton and the Zanuck Co. link up on a pic — this time an adaptation of Roald
Dahl’s kid classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at Warners.
(MAJOR SOURCES: Variety, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baseline, IMDB.com, “The Fox That Got Away: The Last Days of the Zanuck Dynasty at 20th Century Fox” by Stephen M. Silverman, “The Zanucks of Hollywood” by Marlys J. Harris and “Let Me Entertain You” by David Brown.)