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Nanci Ryder, Veteran Hollywood Publicist, Dies at 67

In a decades-long career, she repped stars like Reese Witherspoon and Leonardo DiCaprio

Nanci Ryder, the veteran Hollywood publicist whose client list has included megastars like Reese Witherspoon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Renée Zellweger, died Thursday at age 67.

Ryder, who co-founded the PR firm BWR in 1987 with Paul Baker and Larry Winokur, had been battling ALS, the neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was diagnosed in 2014 and since that time devoted herself to helping find a cure. 

Born in Orlando, Ryder grew up on Long Island and first broke into Hollywood in the late 1970s as a talent agent at David Shapira & Associates before moving into publicity for a variety of companies. In 1984, she launched her own company, working with clients such as Michael J. Fox, DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Woody Harrelson.

She expanded her roster when she teamed with Baker and Winokur to form BWR, which parent company Burson Cohn & Wolf dissolved last month as senior publicists exited to form their own firms.

Ryder, who survived a battle with breast cancer in the early 2000s, bucked her usual behind-the-scenes role following her ALS diagnosis and became an outspoken advocate and fundraiser for research into the disease and even appearing on the syndicated medical show “The Doctors.”

In addition, many of her A-list clients joined in her ALS fundraising efforts, including Zellweger, Cox, Fox, Sarah Michelle Gellar and “The Bold and the Beautiful” star Don Diamont. Over the years, Ryder helped raise $820,000 for the ALS Association Golden West Chapter.

Due to the coronavirus, a private funeral service will be held and a celebration of her life will happen at a later date.

Instead of flowers, donations may be made in Nanci’s memory to teamnanci.org.