Kathleen Kennedy, head of Lucasfilm and producer of the upcoming Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens
Photograph by Joe Pugliese for Fortune
By Michal Lev-Ram
September 11, 2015

This year’s Fortune Most Powerful Women issue features a profile on one of Hollywood’s most prolific (yet largely unknown) producers: Kathleen Kennedy. The power player has 77 movies under her belt, including some of the biggest blockbusters in recent decades—Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones series and Schindler’s List, to name a few—but is not a known entity outside of moviemaking’s inner rings. Now, as the head of Lucasfilm and the producer of one of the most anticipated movies in years—Star Wars: The Force Awakens—Kennedy’s own star is rising. But even those who have heard her name probably haven’t heard all of the interesting back stories of Kennedy’s life, from her days as a camera operator to working with director Steven Spielberg to taking over Lucasfilm. Here are five fun anecdotes, uncovered during a lengthy reporting process, that didn’t make it into the profile:

1. Kennedy was once tackled by a Minnesota Vikings linebacker. Back in her days as a camera operator for a San Diego-based TV network (her first job, in the 1970s), she was shooting a football game and running with the camera in order to get live footage of a pass. She didn’t see the linebacker coming. Before she knew it, he hit her right at the ankles and she went flying through the air. “I ended up on national television,” she says. “Luckily I didn’t get killed.”

2. Kennedy and her husband, producer Frank Marshall, initially kept their relationship secret. Why? Spielberg, who had known Marshall for years, had tapped Kennedy to co-produce E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in the early 1980s. Marshall didn’t want anyone to think that his romantic involvement with Kennedy had anything to do with her getting the job. They were eventually “outed” by none other than Lucasfilm founder George Lucas, who ran into them together at an oyster bar in Palm Springs.

3. Kennedy brought the idea for the movie Munich to Spielberg’s attention. “She’s got great sonar,” says the legendary director, who calls the 2005 flick about the aftermath of the massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics one of his “favorites.” Kennedy produced the film, which turned out to be a relatively low-grossing but critically acclaimed project for the duo.

4. Lucas’s wife helped convince Kennedy to take the job at Lucasfilm. It was Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and Lucas’s wife, who helped seal the deal for Kennedy. Shortly after Lucas asked the long-time producer to be his successor at Lucasfilm, the friends were all out at dinner in Chicago. “I had left the table to go to the restroom and she followed me,” says Kennedy. “I turned around and she grabs my arm and goes, ‘Kathy, you have to do this.'” Shortly after, Kennedy officially agreed to take the job. Hobson, who is on the board of DreamWorks Animation, has been an unofficial advisor to Kennedy.

5. Kennedy met The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams when he was just a teenager. In fact, she brought him in as an intern while she was working with Spielberg in the 1980s. Abrams, now in his late 40s, had won a student film competition. Kennedy hired him on to help transfer some of Spielberg’s old footage onto new tapes, and kept up with his career over the years. When it came time to hire on a director for the new Star Wars flick, she asked Abrams—who was planning to take some time off—to take the job. He said yes.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

You May Like

EDIT POST