MAKERS Profile

Sherry Lansing

Pioneer Studio Executive & Philanthropist

In this video

Pioneer studio executive Sherry Lansing took a job reading scripts when she realized that acting wasn't the right career choice for her. She climbed the ladder quickly, ultimately becoming the first woman to head a Hollywood studio, a position she never even realized she could ever have.
Sherry Lansing was a trailblazer, visionary, and leader in the motion picture business for almost 30 years and involved in the production, marketing, and distribution of more than 200 films, including Academy Award winners Forrest Gump (1994), Braveheart (1995), and Titanic (1997). In 1980, she became the first woman to head a major film studio when she was appointed President of 20th Century Fox.   As an independent producer, Lansing was responsible for such successful films as, Fatal Attraction, The Accused, School Ties, Indecent Proposal, and Black Rain. In 1992, she was named Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures. During her 12 year tenure, the studio saw studio saw enormous creative and financial success.   Keeping a promise to herself to leave the movie industry at age 60, Lansing moved on to create The Sherry Lansing Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cancer research, education, and encore career opportunities.   Lansing has received numerous honors and awards for her work including the 1996 Foundation of Motion Pictures Pioneers first woman to be awarded the Pioneer of the Year.

More From Sherry

A Third Chapter
At 60 years old, Sherry Lansing left the movie business and turned her eye toward a different passion, philanthropy. In a totally new chapter in her life, Lansing started her own foundation devoted to cancer research, education, and encore careers.

Strong, Honest and Nice
Sherry Lansing explains the importance of being a leader who can provide negative feedback to talent in a way that is digestible and helpful.

The Fight to Make a Movie
Looking back on her career, Sherry Lansing came to realize that the more struggle there was in making a movie, the more passion behind it, and ultimately, the more success.

When a Movie Fails
Sherry Lansing explains that no matter what, we're all going to have disappointments during our careers and that resilience is what will bring us through it and onto our next success.

True Love at 47
Sherry Lansing describes how her husband, director William Friedkin allowed her to be herself, never asked her to change and also gave her the opportunity to be a step-mother. 

The Choice to Work and Be Single
Pioneer studio executive Sherry Lansing on how she's comfortable with the work/life choices she's made over her career and how she knows that if she had been married or had children, she would never have been able to do the work she did.

Worthy of More
Raised to believe that a woman could never be the head of a studio, Sherry Lansing gradually learned over time to ask herself "why not?" and believe that she was worthy of more.

The First Wives Club
Even though "The First Wives Club" was the only movie slated at Paramount that couldn't land a financial partner, Sherry Lansing was pleased, but not surprised, that the movie was such a success.

You Married Your First Boyfriend
Married at 20 to her first boyfriend, Sherry Lansing explains how that was simply what was expected of young couples. 

Dad's Love of Movies
Although her father passed away when she was only 9 years old, Sherry Lansing holds the memory of her father and his love for movies close to her heart and credits it for her career.