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Tobey Maguire, Marc Webb and others in Hollywood remember 'Spider-Man' producer Laura Ziskin

June 14, 2011 |  7:00 am

Spider Man When disagreements between some of Hollywood's most powerful people began to roil plans for a fourth "Spider-Man" movie several years ago, some in the entertainment industry advised filmmakers to walk away.

But Laura Ziskin, the franchise's producer and primary creative force, decided to push forward. Even though it soon became clear the movie would have to be made without its star (Tobey Maguire) and director (Sam Raimi) -– losses that would usually be considered deal-busters -- Ziskin took the then-unconventional route of starting over with a new director and lead actor.

The result, "The Amazing Spider-Man," is set to be one of the major releases of next summer, with a pair of hot commodities, director Marc Webb and actor Andrew Garfield.

"She loved a challenge, and she had a direct style that allowed no ...," Lauren Shuler Donner, a longtime friend and fellow top Hollywood producer, told 24 Frames. "She would just deal with the issues in a solution-oriented manner."

After Ziskin received a diagnosis of stage 3 cancer in 2004, Shuler Donner, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years earlier, told her friend that going to a movie set was the best way to fight the disease's psychological effects. Although she was receiving treatments that ravaged her body, Ziskin shepherded two of the most significant pictures of her career, the second and third "Spider-Man" movies, under the shadow of the disease.

Shuler Donner was hardly the only person to recall Ziskin's directness and zeal. Around Hollywood on Monday, filmmakers, executives and stars offered their remembrances. Gale Anne Hurd, another A-list producer, said of Ziskin, "When Laura set her mind to something, she was indomitable. Nothing stood in her way; she didn't see obstacles." Keeping with the theme, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal called Ziskin an "inspiring warrior who fought every battle, whether it was business or personal, with her trademark brains, guts and class."

Maguire went for a more general approach, saying in a statement that "I worked closely with Laura for 10 years. Our loss is a great one. My gifts from knowing and working with Laura are many and profound."

Ziskin's fellow producer and close friend, Susan Landau, recalled the late producer's epic battles to get a movie made -- and Ziskin, as the executive who oversaw such difficult material as "The Thin Red Line" and "Fight Club," fought more than her share.

"She always used to say that every producer should get an Academy Award just for getting her movie made," Landau said in an interview. "She read something, she grabbed it, and she forced it into existence." Webb had a poetic turn to describe these traits -- he called Ziskin "a romantic and a crusader."

But when it came to making movies, it wasn't always about a specific project. More than any box-office achievement, Ziskin was instrumental in breaking a glass ceiling. 

"When you look around those [big summer] movies, there are not a lot of women on them, unless they happen to be married to the director," said "Austin Powers" producer Jennifer Todd, part of the next generation of female producers for whom Ziskin blazed a trail. "She said a lot for what women can be capable of. We don't just have to produce female-oriented material."


Laura Ziskin, Spider-Man producer and Hollywood trailblazer, dies at 61

Laura Ziskin on the red carpet of the Stand up to Cancer event

Ziskin will receive Producers Guild of America Visionary award

-- Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling


Photo: Tobey Maguire in the "Spider-Man" franchise. Credit: Sony Pictures

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