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It was February 2012. My coverage of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows for Fango had been progressing well--meaning methodically and smoothly. Besides interviewing classic cast members, like Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jerry Lacy, months prior to the film’s release, I’d also snagged a few juicy quotes from Burton. Yep, I was on a roll!
The call from Producer Richard Zanuck’s office, however, caught me completely off-guard.
Of course, I knew he was producing Dark Shadows, but I’d no idea an interview had been arranged! Quickly juggling my schedule and trying very hard to sound professional, I politely asked Zanuck’s secretary if we could reconnect one day hence, just to allow me necessary prep time. She complied.
The next afternoon, I punched in Zanuck’s number and counted the rings, pulse racing. His secretary answered, and before I knew it, Dick Zanuck and I were chatting like old friends. Phone interviews can be tricky situations. Mood and simpatico are determined by tone of voice, and you never really know how they’ll turn out--but he instantly put me at ease. We discussed Maine (my home state), Dark Shadows, and Jaws.
Then, I asked about Compulsion (1962), his first producing credit.
That anyone would mention Compulsion was unusual, Zanuck said. Had I actually seen
it? My affirmative response both surprised and pleased him, I could tell. Apparently, most of the people writing for magazines nowadays are quite a bit younger than yours truly!
What started out as a typical publicity call suddenly became a trip down memory lane. Zanuck had marvelous tales to spin involving Orson Welles (an old family friend and star of Compulsion), the original Planet of the Apes, and what it was like growing up with a father who was a Hollywood pioneer, Darryl Zanuck--founder of 20th Century Fox.
All the while, I’m thinking: wow, this is Richard Zanuck, Oscar and Irving G. Thalberg Award winner--the man who headed Fox, producer of such blockbusters as The Sound of Music, Jaws, Cocoon, Driving Miss Daisy, and six Tim Burton films (Planet of the Apes; Big Fish; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows)…and I’m talking to him! It does not get any better than this, folks!
His enthusiasm was catching. Soon, I found myself sharing my own movie memories, and never once did I get the impression Dick Zanuck was anything but genuinely interested. After an hour, I decided I’d kept him too long. We parted ways…but not before he asked me to call again if I needed anything else.
Fangoria was the last genre magazine (and the only one, I believe) to feature a Dark Shadow interview with Dick Zanuck. For me personally, it was a benchmark of my writing career.
Richard Zanuck passed away on July 13th at age 77, from a heart attack. He left behind wife, Lili; daughters, Janet and Virginia; sons, Harrison and Dean...and a lifetime of movie entertainment stretching back to the 1960s. Excelsior, Richard! Thanks for the great memories!
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