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Oscar-winning producer Richard Zanuck of 'Driving Miss Daisy' dead at 77

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 11:13 AM EDT, Sat July 14, 2012
Producers Richard and Lili Zanuck arrive at the Golden Globe Awards in 2011.
Producers Richard and Lili Zanuck arrive at the Golden Globe Awards in 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard D. Zanuck dies of a heart attack Friday, his reps say
  • He and his wife won an Oscar for producing "Driving Miss Daisy"
  • He also won the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, as did his father

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Oscar-winning producer Richard D. Zanuck, whose films include "Driving Miss Daisy," "Jaws," and Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," died Friday at age 77 of a heart attack in Los Angeles, his publicists said.

In 1991, Zanuck was awarded the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, also given to his longtime associate David Brown. Given only 36 times in Oscars history, the award recognized Zanuck as "a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production," according to his representatives.

The summer of "Jaws"

Zanuck is the only second-generation recipient of the award, which also was given to his father, Darryl F. Zanuck.

Earlier, Zanuck and his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, won an Oscar as producers of "Driving Miss Daisy," which was named Best Picture of 1989, his representatives said.

The couple ran their own production firm, the Zanuck Company, formed in 1988, the representatives said.

Zanuck was born December 13, 1934, to Darryl F. Zanuck and actress Virginia Fox, said publicists Jeff Sanderson and Dan Barry.

After graduating from Stanford University and serving in the Army as a lieutenant, he joined his father as a story and production assistant on two 20th Century Fox films, "Island in the Sun" and "The Sun Also Rises."

He became a full-fledged producer at age 24 with the feature film "Compulsion," which garnered the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the ensemble work of stars Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman, the representatives said.

At age 28, Zanuck rose to president in charge of production of 20th Century Fox and was then the youngest corporate head in Hollywood, his publicists said. In his eight years at that job, the studio secured 159 Oscar nominations, including for "The Sound of Music," "Patton" and "The French Connection," which all won Best Picture.

Confessions of an Oscars geek

Zanuck became senior executive vice president at Warner Bros., where he and soon-to-be partner Brown oversaw "The Exorcist" and "Blazing Saddles."

The two men formed the Zanuck/Brown Co. in 1971 and produced "Jaws," a triple-Oscar winner and Best Picture nominee, as well as "Jaws II," "The Sugarland Express," "The Sting," "The Verdict," "Cocoon" and its sequel "Cocoon: The Return."

In 1999, the Zanuck Company joined Clint Eastwood and made "True Crime," based on Andrew Klavan's best-selling novel and a film in which Eastwood also starred and directed, the publicists said.

In March 2000, Zanuck and wife produced the 72nd annual Oscar presentation itself -- garnering nine Emmy nominations and the highest network ratings of the previous six years, the representatives said.

In 2001, Zanuck and his son Dean produced DreamWorks' "Road to Perdition."

Zanuck's most recent production was "Dark Shadows," released by Warner Bros. in May -- marking his sixth collaboration with director Tim Burton, the publicists said.

That old Tim Burton magic

Zanuck is survived by his wife, sons Harrison and Dean, and nine grandchildren.

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