Studio Legends: Sherry Lansing
Although she now focuses her indefatigable energy on her foundation, which is dedicated to cancer research, education and putting retirees to work, Sherry Lansing, 66, is assured a singular place in the Hollywood pantheon. When an early foray into acting didn’t satisfy her, she worked her way through the ranks, becoming the first woman to head production when she was named president of Fox in 1980. After a successful stint as a producer, she rose even higher, stepping into the chairmanship of Paramount Motion Picture Group in 1992 for an enviable 13-year run. Early on, Lansing, with her reassuringly personal manner, showed an affinity for scripts that captured the moment: Kramer vs. Kramer, The China Syndrome and, later, Fatal Attraction. And she caught a major wave when Paramount joined with Fox to float Titanic. But as an exec, she realized, the high of opening a hit movie was short-lived. “You never really get to enjoy the victory before you are on to the next picture and have to put out the next fire,” she says. So philanthropy became her second calling, which the Academy recognized when it honored Lansing in 2007 with its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.