Richard D. Zanuck, the son of 20th Century Fox legend Daryl F. Zanuck who grew up to produce "Jaws" and other major Hollywood films, died of a heart attack Friday in Los Angeles. He was 77. Zanuck "would make his own indelible mark on the movie business by championing a then unknown director named Steven Spielberg," says Brent Lang at The Wrap.
Together their adaptation of Peter Benchley's pulpy novel about a killer shark terrorizing a beach town would usher in a new era of summer blockbusters and fundamentally alter the type of movies that the industry makes. The impact of "Jaws," which at the time was the highest grossing movie of all time, can still be felt in recent tentpole hits like "The Avengers" and "Avatar," cinematic spectacles that entice audiences through a combination of special effects and easily digestible plots.
Although best known as one of the foremost movie producers in Hollywood, he would also have stints as a top executive at Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, where he helped oversee such classic pictures as "The Exorcist" and "The Sound of Music."
As an independent producer, he remained a major boaster of top shelf directing talent. He would discover Spielberg and give him his first feature film job on 1974's "The Sugarland Express," and would go on to collaborate with the likes of Tim Burton and Ron Howard, producing such hit films as "Alice in Wonderland," "Cocoon" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
In a varied career there were also ventures into quieter dramas, such as "Driving Miss Daisy," a look at the relationship between an aging Southern dowager and her black chauffeur that won Zanuck an Oscar for Best Picture in 1989.
His mother was actress Virginia Fox.