Documentary Review – Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck

This May, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) celebrates the life and career of Oscar winning producer, Richard D. Zanuck with a new original documentary, Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking followed by the airing of three of Zanuck’s acclaimed films, Driving Miss Daisy, Cocoon, and Compulsion. This 90 minute special, executive produced by Steven Spielberg makes its world premiere at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival this week!

When Richard Zanuck told his father, legendary studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, that he wanted to go into the movies, the elder Zanuck warned him, “You have to overcome the circumstances of your birth… You’re going to get diminished in other people’s value because of my success.” But overcome it he did, in a six-decade career that brought him a Best Picture Oscar and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Along the way, he produced such iconic films as The Sting (1973), Jaws (1975), Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). TCM presents a special TCM Original documentary—an intimate portrait of the great filmmaker, using recent interviews with Zanuck himself, home movies, and archival film clips and stills to shed light on one of Hollywood’s most successful careers. Adding to this inside look at the rise of the new Hollywood are interviews with Zanuck collaborators like Clint Eastwood, Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton. Producer-writer-director Laurent Bouzereau is the man behind the award-winning All About ‘The Birds,’ along with documentaries about Rear Window and Jaws.

As a huge fan of film, I was thrilled to receive a screener of this documentary. I love learning more about the filmmakers and producers that came before the ones I already know a lot about so I could watch a documentary like this everyday. Having snowball fights with Ernest Hemingway when he was a child…working with Orson Welles in his adulthood…becoming the president of 20th Century Fox and saving nearly every studio on the lot by shutting down and then coming back with The Sound of Music…you’ll be hooked! It’s one thing to see Zanuck’s name in the credits of some of my favorite movies like Big Fish and know that he was one of the most well respected producers in Hollywood but it’s another to finally discover why, really learn about his journey both professionally and personally.

He knows that a producer lives and dies on how good that film is and nobody’s going to remember the budget at the end of the day if the film is great and nobody’s going to remember that you brought it in on budget if the film is lousy. – Sherry Lansing

Ron Howard, Morgan Freeman, Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sherry Lansing, and Tom Rothman are just a few of the names that are interviewed for this documentary. Zanuck himself, his wife, and sons are also interviewed for the documentary. This is a documentary done right. I love when everyone’s on board and the catalogue of films to feature on the documentary is infinite. I love that there is just as much focus on the good as there is on the more difficult, such Zanuck firing Judy Garland in a film and Zanuck’s father firing him from 20th Century Fox after a handful of flops. This truly is a beautifully put together, well cared for documentary. Today’s generation might be most familiar with Zanuck’s work on more than a handful of Tim Burton’s films but there is so, so much more to Zanuck so I encourage you to watch and learn about this great producer. You’ll come away with so much and want to learn even more about the producers behind your favorite films, past and present.

Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck airs Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 8pm on TCM.