Film executive also produced the Academy Awards and co-founded Stand Up to Cancer
"Spider-Man" producer Laura Ziskin died Sunday evening. She was 61 and had been battling breast cancer for seven years.
Ziskin died at home, and continued to undertake major productions in Hollywood all through her illness.
She was best known for her work on the "Spider-Man" franchise, which brought in over $1.5 billion worldwide, making her one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood.
Ziskin also produced the Academy Awards telecast two times, becoming the first woman to produce the awards show solo in 2002 and earning multiple Emmy awards in the process.
She also produced such critically acclaimed films as "Fight Club" and "To Die For."
Though she struggled with cancer since receiving a Stage 3 diagnosis in 2004, Ziskin remained indefatigable, overseeing one of Sony's highest-grossing franchises and the broadcast of the industry's top awards shows.
She also became active in the movement to combat the disease, drawing on her contacts in the entertainment industry to help found Stand Up To Cancer in 2008.
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In an interview with Katie Couric, Ziskin explained her activism: "I felt there was a kind of lack of will, an acceptance that, 'Oh, cancer is this impossible, unsolvable problem.' And I thought, 'Well, okay, so what? It’s a problem. It’s a big, big problem. And I believe with focus, we can really solve it.'"
On behalf of Stand Up To Cancer, Ziskin executive produced a televised event, simulcast on all three major networks on September 5, 2008 to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research. The one-hour special featured over 100 celebrities including Josh Brolin, Morgan Freeman, Sidney Poitier, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, and Charlize Theron. A similar special again aired in September 2010.
Ziskin rose from the trenches of the entertainment industry to become one of a handful of women who were an integral part of the power elite. She counted among her close friends moguls Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures.
After graduating from the University of Southern California's School for Cinematic Arts, Ziskin worked as a game show writer and personal assistant to producer Jon Peters. From there, she moved on to become a development executive, eventually forming Fogwood Films with partner Sally Field.
At Fogwood, Ziskin produced the Oscar nominated "Murphy's Romance" as a vehicle for Field and the Cold War thriller "No Way Out," which provided a crucial early role to a young Kevin Costner.
Ziskin would go on to work as a producer at Touchstone Pictures and as president of Fox 2000, where she oversaw hits such as "Pretty Woman" and "Courage Under Fire," as well as occasional misses such as the William Hurt medical drama "The Doctor."
During the 1990s, Ziskin would also executive produce "As Good As it Gets," which received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.
After leaving Fox 2000 in 1999, Ziskin landed an independent production deal at Columbia Pictures, where she would go on to shepherd "Spider-Man" to the big screen. A new installment in the comic book series, "The Amazing Spider-Man," hits theaters next summer.
Ziskin was actively involved in issues that concern health, the environment, and families, and served on the board of Americans for a Safe Future, the National Council of Jewish Women and Education First.
Among her many honors are the Women In Film’s Crystal Award, the Israel Film Festival’s Visionary Award, The Wellness Community’s Human Spirit Award, and The Producers Guild of America’s David O. Selznick Award.
She is survived by her husband, "Spider-Man" screenwriter Alvin Sargent, and a daughter from her first marriage.
A memorial for Ziskin is being planned. For those wishing to honor her memory, the family requests donations be made to Stand Up To Cancer through the organization's website.