Marcia Nasatir, Film Executive Who Shattered Barriers for Women in Hollywood, Dies at 95

Marcia Nasatir
Courtesy of Virgil Films/Everett Collection

Marcia Nasatir, a trailblazing female executive and producer who elbowed her way into a male-dominated Hollywood, shattering conventions and an important glass ceiling in the process, died on Tuesday morning. She was 95.

In a career of firsts, Nasatir worked for United Artists, Orion Pictures and Carson Productions, while producing the likes of “The Big Chill” and “Vertical Limit.” In 1974, she became the first female vice president of production at a major Hollywood studio when she was tapped for the job at U.A. It was a heady time to be at the studio, which had developed a reputation for backing edgy, filmmaker-friendly fare. In her post, Nasatir helped develop such movie classics as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Carrie,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Rocky.”

“It was called ‘having a career’ back then, not ‘going to work,'” Nasatir said in a 2018 interview with the San Antonio Current. “I was fortunate. I had parents who thought their children could accomplish whatever they wanted. I had the courage to say, ‘I want a career and I’ll work with men.'”

Her route to Hollywood didn’t follow a straight line. She started in the New York publishing world before breaking out as a literary agent, a job that took her across the country to Los Angeles. As the only female literary agent at The Ziegler Agency, Nasatir represented writers the likes of William Goldman and Robert Towne, making a name for herself.

Nasatir would leave United Artists in the late 1970s, following the company’s chief Arthur Krim to Orion Pictures, the new company he founded in 1978, where she became a production executive. She would then go on to Carson Productions, late-night host Johnny Carson’s production company, before becoming an independent producer. Her credits as a producer include the war drama “Hamburger Hill” and “Ironweed,” a Depression era drama with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

“The Big Chill,” which Nasatir executive produced, is her most enduring film. The script for the drama about a group of college pals reuniting after the suicide of a friend landed on her desk while she was a top executive at Carson Productions, and she persevered despite hesitance from other studios.

“I said to myself, ‘If I can’t get this picture made, I shouldn’t be in the movie business,'” Nasatir recalled in a 1998 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Because this is what a screenplay is supposed to be.”

The film went on to be a box office success when it opened in 1983 and was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.

In her later years, Nasatir and Lorenzo Semple Jr., a screenwriter and creator of TV’s “Batman,” reviewed movies on a YouTube channel called Reel Geezers. Her life in pictures inspired a 2016 documentary about her career titled “A Classy Broad.”

Nasatir’s story was engagingly chronicled by Anne Goursaud. The film earned strong reviews when it premiered, with The Hollywood Reporter praising it as a documentary that “should entertain and inspire a new generation of women who refuse to be stymied by the status quo.”

Robert King, who wrote the 2000 survival thriller “Vertical Limit” and produced the film alongside Nasatir, Martin Campbell and Lloyd Phillips, tweeted that she had “Great taste. Great sense of humor.”

“Sorry to hear about the passing of Marcia Nasatir, a glass ceiling breaker, a creative force and simply a wonderful human being. RIP,” wrote producer Ira Deutchman.

Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women and Hollywood, called her “a pioneer.”