What do Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and J.J. Abrams have in common? Yes, all three are uber-directors. They’ve also all partnered with Kathleen Kennedy, the most prolific female film producer in Hollywood, to make some of their biggest hits. Kennedy, the current head of Lucasfilm and producer of the much-anticipated next installation of the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, is profiled in Fortune’s recent Most Powerful Women issue. She has made dozens of movies over a nearly four-decades-long career (some of her blockbusters include E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List). Collectively, her films have raked in more than $11 billion in worldwide box-office sales and garnered 120 Academy Award nominations.
What is the secret to her success and her fruitful moviemaking partnerships over the years? In interviews with Fortune, her uber-director other halves weigh in:
Spielberg: “I never felt that being a woman held Kathy back at a time when men clearly held most of the jobs as producers. She didn’t conform or change her approach to people in order to get ahead. What got her ahead is that she has a talent for storytelling and for problem solving. And for getting people to listen to her. A good producer is somebody that has the director’s ear, and that can take the temperature of not just me but also the actors. They know when there’s a problem ahead and are able to stop it before it ever becomes a problem. Kathy’s got great sonar about all the bumps in the road.”
Lucas: “It was obvious that she knew what she was doing right from the get-go, she’s very strong and she’s very ambitious. She got those opportunities [to work on multiple big-budget films] because she was really the best person for the job. It was [also] that point in the movie business where you had a lot of people who were just young kids, and so you gave people chances because there were no old people to tell you that you can’t. I mean, the whole thing in the ’70s was about all the young kids being in charge. She ended up with a huge amount of experience producing films.”
Abrams: “Kathy is so utterly in her element on set, so at ease, so enjoying it, that you can’t help but feel better whenever she is around. One of Kathy’s seemingly limitless skills is her incredible ability to delegate and hire people she can trust and communicate with, and then let them do their job. She is constantly giving suggestions, helping course correct, but like anyone with as vast a responsibility as Kathy has, she assembles and helps lead a wonderful team.”
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