Laura Ziskin, activist and producer behind the blockbuster Spider-Man series, died of breast cancer at her Santa Monica home on Sunday. She was 61 years-old.
Described by Variety as "a trailblazer among femme film producers and a forceful advocate for health and environmental issues," Ziskin worked feverishly throughout her seven-year long bout with breast cancer and steered the Spider-Man franchise into box office history. The first three films broke box office records worldwide, and production on a fourth installment wrapped on a fourth installment. During her illness, Ziskin also won the 2005 Visionary Award, a lifetime achievement honor given by the Producers Guild of America. The award honors a decades of Ziskin's diverse and successful career in the industry:
Along with contemporaries that included the late Dawn Steel and Sherry Lansing, Ziskin was part of a generation of showbiz women who braved gender bias to rise to prominence as execs and producers in the 1980s and 1990s. During her long career, Ziskin segued easily between roles as an exec and as a producer. She produced or exec produced such notable pics as "Pretty Woman," "What About Bob?," "Hero," "To Die For" and "As Good As it Gets." She exec produced the Oscarcast in 2002, marking the first time a solo femme took the reins of the live telecast, and again in 2007.
Nikki Finke also remembers Ziskin's unyielding efforts to make cancer research a more prominent issue in America:
[Laura] will be remembered most for her humanity as the proud producer of the historic three-network "Stand Up To Cancer" televised fundraisers. Like one in 3 women in this country, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in February 2004. (Doctors had repeatedly missed it previously because of the diffuse type of cancer she had.) She never wanted anyone to refer to her struggle as a 'battle': instead, she preferred to focus on the victories and was determined to use all her resources to make cancer a first tier issue in this country.
Ziskin is survived by her husband, Alvin, and daughter Julia.