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Amy Pascal

b. 1958

by Janis Plotkin

In 2003 Amy Pascal was named the most powerful woman in Hollywood on the Hollywood Reporter’s Top 100 Women in Hollywood list. At age forty-five, Pascal, after the departure of longtime chairman John Calley, became one of three co-chairs at Sony Corporations’ Sony Pictures Entertainment. Pascal worked at and ran the Sony unit, Columbia Pictures, for fourteen years. It was her blockbuster hits and billion dollar profits for two straight years that brought her to the top of the female power in Hollywood. Much of this was due to the popularity of male superheroes. It was Pascal who gave the go-ahead to produce Spiderman and oversaw such films as Anger Management, Daddy Day Care and Stuart Little.

Pascal was also recognized by Women In Film in Los Angeles for her golden touch in developing and producing critically and commercially successful women-driven films like A League of Their Own, Single White Female, Little Women and Charlie’s Angels. At the ceremony at which Pascal received the Crystal Award, she lashed out publicly at those who trivialized films made from a female perspective. She went on to encourage the more than 1,300 attendees, the majority of them women, not to be embarrassed at making movies about what makes them unique. She added that she was proud that girls all over America joined baseball teams because of A League of Their Own, and the message of Charlie’s Angels was that girls can be sexy and smart at the same time.

Born in 1958 and raised in Los Angeles, Amy Pascal got her first job while still in junior high school, wrapping books at a Los Angeles bookstore. She worked as a bookkeeper at Crossroads school while getting her international relations degree at UCLA. In an interview with Variety she stated that work was where she got her self-esteem, a lesson she learned very early. Her father was an economist and her mother was a librarian who later owned her own art bookstore. She admits that her upbringing was very much middle-class Jewish intellectual. She was often asked if she was from New York City—perhaps because she talks fast—but more probably as code for her Jewish upbringing, albeit from Los Angeles.

Pascal wanted to work in films. She got her first production job by answering a trade paper advertisement and went to work for BBC producer Tony Garnett’s Kestrel Films as his secretary. She stayed there for six years. In 1985 she moved to 20th Century Fox as vice president of production.

It was Dawn Steel who hired Amy Pascal as vice president of production. Pascal was known to have good literary taste. She was also a brunette with a funky, whimsical style in clothing. In 1994 Pascal became president of Turner Pictures. After the 1996 merger between Turner and Time Warner, Pascal became president of Columbia. Pascal is noted as a booster of films with such female directors as Betty Thomas, Nora Ephron, Amy Hekerling, Diane Keaton and Nancy Meyers. She is also known as a skilled player of studio politics. Covering all her bases, Pascal also knows how to handle the news media and has been particularly successful in winning female journalists and feminists to support her.

Pascal remained single until her late thirties. A publicist introduced her to Bernard Weinraub, the New York Times’s top Hollywood reporter, at a working breakfast. She knew from that morning meeting that she wanted to marry him. So, as with the rest of her life, she decided to be assertive and pursue him. “Once I set my mind to it, he did not have much of a choice,” she is quoted as having said in an interview with W Magazine. After their wedding his paper thought that a New York Times Hollywood reporter might find marriage to the head of a studio a conflict of interest. So Weinraub switched to television and other LA based subjects. There seem to be no regrets on either side. The couple later adopted a son, Anthony—a life change that Pascal says has been accommodated by Columbia. “They converted a meeting room at the studio for Anthony, so he has his toys and crib there.”

As a manager, Pascal keeps her office door open so that her staff of executives can roam in and out. Her philosophy is to get the best work out of everybody. As she says, “You can catch more bees with honey.”

More on: Business, Film

How to cite this page

Plotkin, Janis. "Amy Pascal." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/pascal-amy>.

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