When veteran producer Richard D. Zanuck passed away last year at the age of 77, Hollywood lost a long-serving mover and shaker. In a career spanning over half a decade, he headed 20th Century-Fox in the 1960s (greenlighting “The Sound of Music,” among others), shepherded Steven Spielberg’s first features to the screen (including “Jaws,” for which Zanuck received his first Oscar nod), won the Oscar for “Driving Miss Daisy,” produced the Academy Awards himself and collaborated with directors including Tim Burton, Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood, Sidney Lumet and William Friedkin.
Meanwhile, as the son of legendary producer Darryl F. Zanuck — who produced over 200 features in his time, including such classics as “All About Eve” and “The Grapes of Wrath” — Zanuck was a rare working link to authentic Old Hollywood royalty. No surprise, then, that TCM should choose to celebrate his life and career in a new original documentary.
“Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck” will premiere next month at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, before having its TV premiere on the channel on May 8. The director, Laurent Bouzereau, is well-versed in making-of documentaries, and has done many a behind-the-scenes feature on Steven Spielberg’s work; Spielberg himself, meanwhile, acts as an executive producer.
Spielberg, of course, also features on the documentary’s all-star list of talking heads, which includes directors Howard, Eastwood, Burton and Friedkin, fellow producers like Sherry Lansing and Tom Rothman, and A-list stars ranging from Johnny Depp to Michelle Pfeiffer. That’s in addition, of course, to extensive interview footage with Zanuck himself. Remembrances of his father — who hired Zanuck for the Fox position at a young age, only to fire him after a series of late-60s musical flops — will be on the agenda.
Says Bouzereau: “Dick Zanuck humanized what it is to be a producer. When he passed away, it was not a page of Hollywood history that was turned, it was an entire volume that was closed.”
The film’s TV premiere on TCM, meanwhile, will be followed by airings of three of Zanuck’s most significant films. “Cocoon” and “Driving Miss Daisy” don’t exactly need the extra exposure, but it’s nice to see Zanuck’s first film as a producer, the 1959 thriller “Compulsion,” in the mix: a taut, thinly disguised adaptation of the infamous Leopold-Loeb murder case that arguably holds up better than Hitchcock’s earlier, comparable “Rope,” it’s worth seeing for a number of reasons — not least the performances of Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillmann and Orson Welles, who jointly won Best Actor at Cannes. Cosier mainstream fare would dominate Zanuck’s producing output, so it’s nice to see TCM reflecting the range of his work and influence.