The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

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Amy Pascal

b. March 25, 1958

by Janis Plotkin, updated by JWA Staff

In Brief

Amy Pascal was named one of the most powerful women in Hollywood by the Hollywood Reporter in 2003, for her management of Sony Pictures’ run of commercial and critical successes. She became vice president of production at 20th Century Fox in 1985, vice president of production for Columbia in 1988, and president of Turner Pictures in 1994, returning to Columbia as president in 1996. At Columbia, she developed hits including Groundhog Day, Little Women, and A League of Their Own. She has overseen major franchises like Spiderman and James Bond, as well as Oscar nominees including American Hustle and Moneyball, and has been praised for giving female directors a chance to shine in films like Zero Dark Thirty.

Overview

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.

Early Life and Career

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 describes her upbringing as 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.

Film Studio Leadership and Family

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.”

In 2008, Pascal was awarded the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award.

As co-Chairperson of Sony, Pascal oversaw the release of hits including 21 Jump Street (2012); American Hustle (2013); Captain Phillips (2013); the James Bond films Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), and Skyfall (2012); Moneyball (2011); The Social Network (2010); Zero Dark Thirty (2012); the Men in Black films; Julie and Julia (2009); and Superbad (2007). In 2013, she was elected to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors.

In 2014, a group of hackers released information from Sony’s computer systems around the release of the controversial movie The Interview. Among the information released was a series of emails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin about President Barack Obama, in which Pascal made racist remarks condemned by many, including the Civil Rights group ColorOfChange.org, which called for her firing. Additionally, the hack also revealed a stark gender pay gap within the company, with female actors such as Jenifer Lawrence making much less than her male co-stars in American Hustle. Pascal apologized for her racist remarks, but in an interview she seemingly defended paying the actress less.

In 2015, after the controversy from the hackings and with her contract with Sony expiring, Pascal left her position as co-chairperson, later claiming she was fired. She then started her own production company, Pascal Pictures, at Sony, under which she has produced films including Ghostbusters (2016), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018), Venom (2018), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Little Women (2019). In 2019, Pascal pictures moved from Sony to Universal Pictures after Pascal’s four-year deal at Sony ended.

Pascal found herself in more controversy when, in a 2020 interview, the actress Thandie Newton stated that she turned down a part in Charlie’s Angels after a series of upsetting meetings with studio executives, including a meeting with Pascal in which Newton claimed Pascal wanted her character to fit various racist stereotypes and to appear in sexually suggestive scenes. Pascal responded that she had no recollection of that conversation occurring.

Bibliography

Copeland, Libby. “Sony Pictures Hack Reveal: Male Exec Doing Same Job as Female Exec Makes $1 Million More.” Slate Magazine, December 5, 2014. https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/12/sony-pictures-hack-reveals-gen….

Couch, Aaron. “Civil Rights Group Asks Sony to Fire Amy Pascal Over Leaked Emails (Exclusive).” The Hollywood Reporter, December 18, 2014. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/civil-rights-group-….

Faughnder, Ryan. “Sony Co-Chair Amy Pascal Steps down after Hacking Scandal.” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2015. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-sony-amy….

Fleming, Mike. “Amy Pascal Ends 30-Year Sony Run With Universal First Look Deal.” Deadline, May 1, 2019. https://deadline.com/2019/05/amy-pascal-universal-pictures-deal-30-year….

Fritz, Ben. “Amy Pascal Steps Down as Head of Sony's Film Business.” The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/amy-pascal-steps-down-as-head-of-sony-pict….

Higgins, Bill. “No Laughing Matter.” Variety, May 8, 2008. https://variety.com/2008/scene/markets-festivals/no-laughing-matter-3-1….

Kilday, Gregg. “Film Academy's New Board of Governors Includes Sony's Amy Pascal and Filmmaker Alex Gibney.” The Hollywood Reporter, July 15, 2013. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/film-academys-new-b….

McNary, Dave. “Amy Pascal Talks Getting 'Fired,' Sony Hack and Angelina Jolie Emails in Candid Interview.” Variety, February 12, 2015. https://variety.com/2015/film/news/amy-pascal-sony-angelina-jolie-obama….

Nichols, Mackenzie. “Thandie Newton Left 'Charlie's Angels' After Disturbing Encounter With Amy Pascal.” Variety, July 9, 2020. https://variety.com/2020/film/news/thandie-newton-charlies-angels-amy-p….

Siegel, Tatiana. “Amy Pascal to Step Down From Top Sony Post.” The Hollywood Reporter, February 5, 2015. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/amy-pascal-step-dow….

“Sony Extends Contract of Studio Head Amy Pascal.” Reuters, December 7, 2010. https://www.reuters.com/article/industry-us-sonypictures-idUSTRE6B66DY2….

“Sony's Amy Pascal Apologizes for Obama Emails.” Variety, December 11, 2014. https://variety.com/2014/film/news/sonys-amy-pascal-apologizes-for-obam….

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How to cite this page

Plotkin, Janis and JWA Staff. "Amy Pascal." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 31 December 1999. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 5, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/pascal-amy>.