Oscar-winning producer Richard Zanuck dies

Colleagues, creative collaborators and industryites comment on the death of Richard Zanuck on Friday at age 77:

“In 1974, Dick Zanuck and I sat in a boat off Martha’s Vineyard and watched the mechanical shark sink to the bottom of the sea. Dick turned to me and smiled. “Gee, I sure hope that’s not a sign.” That moment forged a bond between us that lasted nearly 40 years. He taught me everything I know about producing. He was one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession and he fought tooth and nail for his directors. Dick Zanuck was a cornerstone of our industry, both in name and in deed.”

— Steven Spielberg

“I’m in shock and heartbroken at the news of Richard Zanuck’s passing. He was like family to me – a mentor, friend and father figure. Richard was a completely unique and amazing individual and there will never be anyone else like him. I’m too sad to speak more about it right now and need some time to mourn.”

— Tim Burton

“Richard’s death is a terrible tragedy and a loss for our industry. As a producer, he was known for his passion, his vision, and his astounding body of work. He has always been an ardent supporter of the Producer’s Guild. He was a dear friend to us and we will miss him deeply.”

— PGA presidents Hawk Koch and Mark Gordon

“A sad day for the business, a sad day for me. (Zanuck) was a great mentor and a great friend to me over many years.

“He was one of a kind. He was elegant and urbane and gracious. But he was also determined and feisty and, in the best way possible, opinionated.

“It’s easy to sum him up, actually: If you look up the phrase ‘a class act’ in the dictionary, that’s where you’d find Dick’s picture. He was a class act. And I think the thing that’s unique about him is how vital and involved he remained through so many different stages of the business itself and his career — obviously during the years that he ran Fox and as an independent producer and into the last chapter of his life producing some of the best movies Tim Burton ever made.

“He was exceptional at what he did and an exceptional man because he did great work with grace, and that’s rare.

“He was very influential in my life; very helpful to me. He had the ultimate perspective on the trials and tribulations of what a studio executive does. And we became friends over time as well.

“What I learned most from him is that age ain’t nothing but a number. He started off when people would have said he was too young, and he kept going when people would have said he was too old. Those circumstances are immaterial. What counts is having the courage of your convictions and the determination to see them realized.”

— Tom Rothman, co-chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, in an exclusive conversation with Variety

Of all the executives who ran companies or ran studios, he was the one who adapted best to being a really strong independent producer. He could really adjust himself to that process, whereas most other people who ran companies never could. And I always revered him for that.

— Variety’s Peter Bart

This is a very sad day for me. I’ve known Dickie for more than half a century. Few knew him longer than myself for a reason: I was under personal contract to he and his father from 1956 to 1961 as an actor. He had just come out of the Army. I was the only one under personal contract to the company. From there our lives went separate ways but we always remained friends.

And what a great producer he was. I can unequivocably say he’s the personification of a producer. Today, anyone from a financier to… He could do everything better than anyone there on the set. He was a great reader — a very fast reader in fact. He didn’t read synposis; he read the full material. He knew every part of every scene. He knew every actor who was available. I used to sit in his office at 20th and learn from him. He was a professor for me.

He was so competitive: from the tennis court to the sound stage, he wanted to be the best, both personally and professionally.

He came from very good genes. Darryl was posibly the best mogul of them all. … He was a real boss. But he wasn’t a boss who shouted, he had the knowledge of being a boss. And what he didn’t know, he learned.

And he knew every facet of making a film — the last being the financial aspect. By that I mean he saved the studio money. He found stories; he found people. He was a creative producer and a physical producer. I always looked up to him.

Both personally and professionally, I will miss him dearly.

— Robert Evans, producer and previous production chief at Paramount in an exclusive conversation with Variety