Sherry Lansing - Writer

Nationality: American. Born: Sherry Lee Lansing in Chicago, 31 July 1944. Family: Married to film director William Friedkin. Education: B.S. in theatre, summa cum laude, Northwestern University, 1966. Career: Began teaching high school math, English, and drama in Watts and East Los Angeles, 1966; pursued a modeling career, working for Max Factor and Alberto-Culver, 1969; had supporting parts in the films Loving and Rio Lobo , hired as executive story editor at Wagner International, 1970; hired as executive in charge of West Coast development at Talent Associates, 1974; hired as story editor at MGM, 1975; promoted to vice president, creative affairs, at MGM; named vice president, production, at Columbia Pictures, 1977; promoted to Columbia senior vice president, 1978; named president of 20th-Century Fox, 1980; formed Jaffe-Lansing Productions, an independent production company, with Stanley R. Jaffe; established a five-year relationship with Paramount Pictures, 1983; extended relationship with Paramount Pictures, 1987; became Chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group, 1992.

Sherry Lansing
Sherry Lansing
Address: c/o Paramount Pictures Corp., 5555 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90038–3197 U.S.A.

Films as Producer/Co-Producer/Co-Executive Producer:


Firstborn (Apted); Racing with the Moon (Benjamin)


Fatal Attraction (Lyne); When the Time Comes (Erman—for TV)


The Accused (Kaplan)


Black Rain (Scott)


School Ties (Mandel)


Indecent Proposal (Lyne)

Other Films:


Loving (Kershner) (ro); Rio Lobo (Hawks) (ro)


By LANSING: articles—

"Actress' Life Is a Bore; Lansing Now MGM V.P.," interview in Variety (New York), 13 April 1977.

"At the Movies," interview with J. Maslin, in New York Times , 23 March 1984.

"Sherry Lansing: an interview," interview with C. Krista, in Films in Review (New York), November 1984.

On LANSING: articles—

"Sherry Lansing Takes Post as Col. Production V-P," in Box Office (Los Angeles), 7 November 1977.

"Sherry Lansing Enjoys More Film Corp. Rank than Ever Given Woman," in Variety (New York), 27 September 1978.

"Chasman and Lansing New Col. Senior V-Ps," in Box Office (Los Angeles), 21 August 1978.

"Boone Ankles Fox; Lansing Quits Col," in Variety (New York), 5 December 1979.

"Sherry Lansing Cues Chasman Elevation on Columbia Staff," in Variety (New York), 12 December 1979.

"Sherry Lansing New Prod. Chief at Fox; First Woman to Assume Job," in Variety (New York), 2 January 1980.

Harmetz, A., "Sherry Lansing, Former Model, Named Head of Fox Productions," in New York Times , 2 January 1980.

"Woman First to Reach Studio President's Rank," in Box Office (Los Angeles), 7 January 1980.

Harmetz, A., "Sherry Lansing and 2 Hollywood Hits," in New York Times , 7 February 1980.

Schulberg, B., "What Makes Hollywood Run Now?," in New York Times , 27 April 1980.

Current Biography (New York), 1981.

Daniell, T., "15 Fox Starts Ahead of an Iffy Strike," in Variety (New York), 18 February 1981.

Kaminsky, B., "Fox's Lansing Slates Ten New Productions for 1982," in Film Journal (New York), 21 December 1981.

Klain, S., "Brandeis' Tribute to Lansing Cues Droll Davis-Hirschfeld Sparring," in Variety (New York), 30 June 1982.

"Sherry Lansing's Fox Deal Extended for Indefinite Term," in Variety (New York), 21 July 1982.

Harmetz, A., "How a Hollywood Rumor Was Born, Flourished and Died," in New York Times , 12 December 1982.

Harmetz, A., "Sherry Lansing Resigns as Fox Production Chief," in New York Times , 21 December 1982

Harwood, J., "Lansing Trots from Fox Studio Niche; Has Job, Won't Elaborate," in Variety (New York), 22 December 1982.

Nicholson, T., "Business: Lansing's Farewell to Fox," in Newsweek (New York), 3 January 1983.

"Lansing, Jaffe Form Own Feature Shop, 5-year Marriage to Par.," in Variety (New York), 5 January 1983.

Farber, S., "Script to Screen: A Rocky Path," in New York Times , 6 November 1983.

"Business Update: Sherry Lansing's New Role in Movies," in New York Times , 6 November 1983.

"Jaffe and Lansing Extend Par pact," in Variety (New York), 30 September 1987.

Mass, R., "The Mirror Cracked: The Career Woman in a Trio of Lansing Films," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), no. 2, 1988.

Vincenzi, L., "Motion Pictures: Stanley R. Jaffe and Sherry Lansing," in Millimeter (Cleveland, Ohio), January 1988.

Phillips, L., "Cameos: Sherry Lansing," in Premiere (New York), October 1988.

Beller, M., "Producer Sherry Lansing: Class Act in a Nasty Business," in Life (New York), 10 April 1989.

Matthews, T., "Weathering Black Rain ," in Box Office (Los Angeles), 11 September 1989.

Hall, C., "Sherry Lansing: Living on Hollywood's Front Lines," in Newsday (Melville, New York), 23 September 1992.

Meisel, M., "A New Era Begins for Sherry Lansing," in Film Journal (New York), October/November 1992.

Wechsler, P., "Succeeding Tartikoff in Top Post: Paramount Taps Sherry Lansing," in Newsday , 5 November 1992.

Fabricant, G., "Sherry Lansing Is Named to Head Paramount," in New York Times , 5 November 1992.

Marx, A., and B. Lowry, "Lansing Ascends at Paramount," in Variety (New York), 9 November 1992.

Bart, P., "Queen of the Mountain," in Variety (New York), 26 July 1993.

Weinraub. B., "Hollywood Takes Bidding War in Stride (for Now)," in New York Times , 1 October 1993.

Conant, J., "Sherry Lansing (Chairwoman of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group)," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), 1 January 1994.

Sellers, P., "The 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business," in Fortune (New York), 12 October 1998.

Kit, Z., "Women in Entertainment—The Power," in Hollywood Reporter , December 1999.

* * *

The career of Hollywood producer/executive Sherry Lansing, and her impact on the motion picture industry, is concisely summarized in a series of headlines of news articles chronicling her career:

1977: "Sherry Lansing Takes Post as Col. Production V-P"

1978: "Sherry Lansing Enjoys More Film Corp. Rank than Ever Given Woman"

1979: "Boone Ankles Fox; Lansing Quits Col"

1980: "Sherry Lansing New Prod. Chief at Fox; First Woman to Assume Job"

1981: "Fox's Lansing Slates Ten New Productions for 1982"

1982: "Sherry Lansing's Fox Deal Extended for Indefinite Term"

1982: "Sherry Lansing Resigns as Fox Production Chief"

1983: "Lansing, Jaffe Form Own Feature Shop, 5-year Marriage to Par."

1987: "Jaffe and Lansing Extend Par Pact."

1992: "Sherry Lansing Is Named to Head Paramount"

1998: "The 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business"

Then there is the 1989 headline that offers insight into Lansing's Hollywood staying power: "Producer Sherry Lansing: Class Act in a Nasty Business."

Such headlines not only mirror Lansing's rise among Hollywood's power elite, but reflect on the chess-and-checkers nature of employment in the motion picture industry's upper echelons. In Hollywood, nothing is forever; Monday's hot story is Wednesday's old news. One year, you make headlines for signing on at a studio and announcing big plans for future productions. The next year, you have already left (or, in Variety lingo, "ankled") that studio and have resurfaced elsewhere. In this regard, Lansing is no different from any one of a score of studio "suits." What makes her stand out is her status as the first woman to earn and enjoy the power of a high-level motion picture industry decisionmaker.

Lansing's career is analogous to that of Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Fame ballplayer who broke the major league baseball color line. Robinson's signing by Branch Rickey to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers is an event than transcends sports. It is one of a number of occurrences—others include the integration of the American military and Brown vs. Board of Education—which signaled the stirrings of the civil rights movement. Had Robinson not been of exemplary character, and had he not shone on the ballfield, he might have indefinitely set back the cause of his race. Similarly, Lansing's career path and accomplishments are outgrowths of another 20th-century social movement: late 1960s and early 1970s feminism. Her knowhow as a decisionmaker and knack for surviving and thriving in the all-male club of Hollywood executives allowed her to open the door to future female powerbrokers.

Lansing entered the entertainment industry as a model and actress. After playing supporting roles in two films released in 1970— Loving , Irvin Kershner's suburban-marriage-in-crisis drama, and Rio Lobo , a Howard Hawks-John Wayne Western—she abandoned performing for a career behind the camera. She steadily rose from story editor to production executive to studio president to independent producer to, finally, Paramount Pictures Chair and CEO. As an independent producer, Lansing's most typical films spotlight contemporary sexual politics and manipulative, incendiary relationships between men and women. Among the characters in her films are a loutish man who abuses a women ( Firstborn ); a psychotic woman who becomes unhinged when she thinks she has been exploited by a man ( Fatal Attraction ); a woman who is gang-raped, and demands her day in court ( The Accused ); and a wealthy man who offers a poor couple $1-million to spend one evening in the arms of the wife ( Indecent Proposal ). Even more significant, however, are the films made under Lansing's aegis as a studio executive. These range from The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer , two of the most highly regarded Hollywood films of the late 1970s, produced when Lansing was at Columbia Pictures, through such 1990s Academy Award-winning Paramount Pictures mega-hits as Forrest Gump and Titanic. For years, Lansing regularly has been among the highest-ranking women listed on the various polls of "100 most powerful people in Hollywood." Given the worldwide popularity of the American motion picture industry, Lansing's authority is international in scope. In 1996, The Australian magazine ranked her Number 37 on its list of "100 Most Powerful Women in the World."

—Rob Edelman

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