Spider-Man producer Laura Ziskin’s tiniest film makes a difference too

June 14, 2011, 8:43 PM UTC

If you read the stories about Laura Ziskin, the Hollywood producer who died of cancer on Sunday at age 61, you’ll get a glimpse of a woman who made a lot of difference without a lot of fanfare.

When she made movies like No Way Out and Pretty Woman and As Good as It Gets, she pioneered in a man’s business and created a string of major hits.

When she produced the first Spider-Man film in 2002, she had never worked in special effects–and she went on to build one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises.

When she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2004, “the last thing you want to do is join a movement. You kind of just want to crawl in a hole,” she told Variety at the time. But as the New York Times notes in its obituary today, she co-founded Stand Up To Cancer, an entertainment-industry-led initiative that has raised awareness and some $180 million for cancer research.

I did not know Ziskin very well, but I spent some time with her in 2009 when she came to the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and appeared on a panel with two other fierce women who were battling cancer at the time: Carly Fiorina and Elizabeth Edwards.

The former Hewlett Packard CEO, the brave political wife (who died last December), and the powerhouse producer made an extraordinary trio that brought some in the audience to tears.

Actually, it was a moment off stage that I remember best about Ziskin. On the second morning of the Summit, Ziskin stopped me in the hotel lobby to say that she had made a film, a two-minute documentary, and wanted to show it to the MPW crowd. I was amused by this idea that this big-time movie-maker used her little Flip camera on the fly at the previous evening’s reception to film a cast of women leaders on the subject of how cancer infiltrated their lives.

Everybody has a cancer story.

Here is a tiny piece of Ziskin’s legacy–her Flip-camera film that we did indeed show at the 2009 MPW Summit. It includes NBC Universal’s Bonnie Hammer, Walt Disney media boss Anne Sweeney, Goldman Sachs’ Kathleen Brown, Gilt Groupe Chairman Susan Lyne, and former Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore standing up to cancer and, in doing that, paying tribute to Ziskin, too.

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