Sherry Lansing

Sherry Lansing (born July 31, 1944) is an American former actress and film studio executive.[1][2][3] She is a former CEO of Paramount Pictures,[4] and when she was the president of production at 20th Century Fox, she was the first woman to head a Hollywood movie studio.[5][6][7] In 1996, she became the first woman to be named Pioneer of the Year by the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers,[8] and she was the first female movie studio head to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[9][10] In 2005, she became the first female movie studio head to place hand and foot prints at the Grauman's Chinese Theater.[11][12] In 2001, she was named one of the 30 most powerful women in America by Ladies' Home Journal,[13] and The Hollywood Reporter named her fourth on its Power 100 list in 2003.[14]

Sherry Lansing
Sherry Lee Duhl

(1944-07-31) July 31, 1944
OccupationFilm studio executive
Years active1968–2008
Michael L. Brownstein
(m. 1967; div. 1970)

William Friedkin
(m. 1991)

Personal life

Lansing was born Sherry Lee Duhl in Chicago, Illinois on July 31, 1944. Her mother, Margaret "Margot" Heimann, fled from Nazi Germany in 1937 at the age of 17. Her father, David Duhl, was a real-estate investor who died when she was nine.[15] Her mother remarried and died in 1984 from ovarian cancer.[16] She was raised in a Jewish household.[17] Lansing attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and graduated in 1962. In 1966, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University,[2] where she was a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority.

Lansing married Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin[18] on July 6, 1991; he had previously been married to French film star Jeanne Moreau. By this marriage, Lansing has two stepsons, Jack and Cedric.


[19] Lansing was a former mathematics teacher, model, and now pursued an acting career (appearing in two films made in 1970, Loving and Rio Lobo, starring John Wayne) but, dissatisfied with her own acting skills, she decided to learn more about the film industry from the ground up. She took a job with MGM as head script reader and worked on two successful films, The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer.[3]

Lansing's work at MGM eventually led, after a stint at Columbia Pictures, to an appointment in 1980, at age 35, as the first female president of 20th Century Fox.[3][5] She was also a partner in Jaffe/Lansing Productions with Stanley R. Jaffe.[5] The company released a consistent string of minor hits through Paramount before achieving success with the box-office smash Fatal Attraction in 1987, for which Jaffe and Lansing received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture the following year. In 1988, the duo produced Jodie Foster starrer The Accused. It dealt with the horrors of rape and its impact on victim's life afterward. The film featured a graphic rape scene and was highly controversial when released. Made with a minor budget of $6 million, it grossed over $37 million worldwide, becoming a major box office hit as well as receiving critical praise with Foster scoring the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1992, she was offered the chairmanship of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group.[5] During her tenure at Paramount, the studio enjoyed its longest and most successful string of releases since the '30s.[3] Under Lansing, the studio produced such blockbuster hits as Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and what was, at the time, history's highest-grossing film – Titanic (the latter two with Fox).[3][5][20][21] Six of the ten highest grossing Paramount films were released during her tenure which included three Academy Awards for Best Picture.[20] Overall, 80% of the films released by Lansing were profitable, a track record unmatched by any other long term studio management leader.

As studio chief, she focused on bottom-line cost rather than market share, preferring to take fewer risks and make lower-budget films than other studios. Viacom (which purchased Paramount in 1994) decided to split the company into two parts in 2004 and Lansing stepped down at the end of that year after an almost unprecedented twelve-year tenure atop Hollywood's legendary "Best Show in Town."[1][21]

She is a Regent of the University of California.[2][5][20] She sits on the boards of the American Red Cross,[4] The Carter Center,[21] DonorsChoose, Qualcomm, Teach for America, The American Association for Cancer Research,[4] the Lasker Foundation and Friends of Cancer Research.[2][5]

In 2005, she created The Sherry Lansing Foundation which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer research.[1][5][21] She is a recipient of UCLA Anderson School of Management's highest honor-the Exemplary Leadership in Management (ELM) Award.

In 2007, she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work in cancer research at the 79th Academy Awards.[4] The award was presented to her by Tom Cruise, her longtime friend and business partner.

In 2011, Lansing pledged $5 million to University of Chicago Laboratory Schools to build a new arts wing, including a 250-seat performance venue.[22]

As of March 2013, Lansing was a member of the board of directors of the Dole Food Company.[23] Beginning in 2012, she has also served as a member of the board of directors for the W. M. Keck Foundation.[24]

In May 2018, Lansing joined the board of directors at The Scripps Research Institute.



Actress or herself

Awards and recognition


  1. "Sherry Lansing official biography". The Sherry Lansing Foundation. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  2. "Biography - Sherry Lansing". Weekend America. January 7, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  3. The Editors of CosmoGIRL, Hearst Books (2007). Cosmogirl! Secrets of Success: 2 Leaders Tell You How to Achieve Your Dreams (illustrated ed.). Sterling. pp. 46–50. ISBN 9781588166661. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  4. "Sherry Lansing to Get Humanitarian Oscar". Fox News. December 15, 2006. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  5. "Distinguished filmmaker, philanthropist/studio executive to receive honorary degrees". Penn State News. November 2, 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  6. Judy Hevrdejs and Mike Conklin (March 17, 1996). "More women in films is studio chief's wish". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  7. Desilu was almost entirely a television studio rather than a movie studio.
  8. "Local TV reporters form "chain reaction" in motion picture roles". Chicago Tribune. July 31, 1996. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  9. "Walk of Fame welcomes its 1st female executive". Deseret News. August 1, 1996. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  10. "Executive earns a star". San Jose Mercury News. August 2, 1996. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  11. ".(Newsmakers)". Jet. March 14, 2005. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  12. "Just for Variety". Daily Variety. February 1, 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  13. "Women's magazine rates influential females". Temple News. November 29, 2001. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  14. Cashman, Greer Fay (June 22, 2005). "Reflections of a power player". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  15. Clehane, Diane (February 22, 2007). "Lansing focuses on philanthropy". Variety. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
  16. "Sherry Lansing: from making movies to curing cancer / UCLA Today". Archived from the original on 2012-12-12.
  17. "Sherry Lansing's encore career". Jewish Journal. 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  18. "A Director, Married to the Studio; With a New Assignment from Paramount, Cries of Nepotism Dog William Friedkin".
  19. "Lansing, Sherry(Lee)."Current Biography 1981.The H.W. Wilson Company New York.1981.p.265.
  20. "UCLA Anderson School of Management to Honor Sherry Lansing with 2005 Exemplary Leadership in Management Award; Honor Recognizes Outstanding Business and Community Leadership". UCLA. April 25, 2005. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  21. The My Hero Project, ed. (2005). My Hero: Extraordinary People on the Heroes Who Inspire Them. Simon & Schuster. pp. 96–102. ISBN 9780743292405. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  22. "Film honcho donates $5 million to U. of C. Laboratory Schools". Chicago Tribune. November 30, 2011.
  23. "Dole | Company Info | Board of Directors". Dole | Company Info | Investor Relations Home. Thousand Oaks, CA, USA: Dole Food Company, Inc. Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2013-03-16. External link in |work= (help)
  24. "W.M. Keck Foundation 2012 Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  25. Posted: Sep 17, 2017 12:53 AM EDT (2017-09-17). "Ten women added to National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca". Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  26. "Sherry Lansing". The Hero Project. 2006. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  27. "Just for Variety". Daily Variety. December 21, 2004. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  28. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-09-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. "Past Recipients". Archived from the original on 2011-06-30. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
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