Richard Zanuck: England in California

Richard Zanuck is so Hollywood -- not only has he developed classics like The Sound of Music, and produced hits like Road to Perdition, but his father is former studio honcho Darryl F. Zanuck. When Richard is at home in Beverly Hills, however, he prefers to feel like he's in a whole other world.


FIFTY YEARS AFTER WRITING AND DIRECTING HIS FIRST PICTURE--an army training film entitled How to Dig a Latrine--Oscar-winning producer Richard Zanuck is still neck-deep in the muck of making movies and loving it. "It's a tough and intolerant business and you really have to have the stomach for it," he says. "But I still have an incredible passion for making great pictures."

The indefatigable 68-year-old is as busy as ever, currently working on Tim Burton's Big Fish (starring Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup and Jessica Lange), a biopic based on the life of famed pilot Chuck Yeager and the spy thriller The Ninth Man. "I have to keep going," laughs Zanuck. "I'm too old to retire."

Over the course of his career, Zanuck has produced some of Hollywood's greatest hits, including Jaws, The Sting, the Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy (which he coproduced with his better half, director/producer Lili Fini Zanuck) and last year's Road To Perdition (which he coproduced with his son Dean).

The couple, who will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary later this year, keeps their Oscars--along with his Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, bestowed also to his legendary father Darryl--in the library of their palatial three-story Beverly Hills home of Georgian ancestry (a style prevalent in Britain and the American colonies during the 18th-century reign of a succession of King Georges). According to Lili, who modeled the home on an English mansion named "Salutations," everything in it is imported, right down to the drainpipes, which come from Coventry, England. The house, which sits on four acres and took three years to build, is surrounded by lush greenery and includes a tennis court, full gym, billiard room, lap pool, steam room and a THX home theater.

Despite the hotwired state-of-the-art setup, the projection room is actually quite cozy, thanks to Lili, who outfitted the space with braided rugs, quilts and antique furniture, game boards and toys. "I went for an early Americana feel," she says. "Most projection rooms are dark and cold and not very inviting. I wanted to create a room that you'd want to sit in even if there wasn't a movie playing. It's a great room."

Along with a replica of Zanuck's Hollywood "Walk of Fame" star, which hangs above a pair of rewind wheels, the projection booth houses hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes, including M*A*S*H*, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Planet of the Apes, all three of which Zanuck oversaw during his tenure as head of 20th Century Fox in the late '60s and early '70s. Under his leadership, the studio received an unprecedented 159 Oscar nods and Best Picture wins for Patton, The Sound of Music and The French Connection. What does he miss most about those days? "The fun we had," says Zanuck. "We never said, 'Let's send this to the marketing people to see if they can sell it.' We're supposed to know whether we can sell a picture. We never used terms like 'hitting our core audience' or things like that. We didn't let the marketing people know what we were doing, let alone read a script or have an opinion. They were lucky to be invited to the premieres. Our only concern was making a great picture. And 30 years later, that's still all I care about."


Michael Moses