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Producer Craig Zadan (1949-2018)


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Craig Zadan, the entertainment impresario who co-produced three consecutive Academy Awards telecasts with his partner Neil Meron, died Monday at the age 69. His death was attributed to complications after shoulder replacement surgery.

Zadan's career as a producer spawned film, television and stage projects. His first film was "Footloose," the 1984 musical drama about a Chicago teen (Kevin Bacon) who moves to a small town that frowns on music and dancing.

Zadan and Meron produced the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Oscars shows on ABC a decade after their 2002 film version of the musical "Chicago" won the award for Best Picture. Although they were the film's executive producers, the gold statuette went to line producer Martin Richards. 

Image result for craig zadan and oscar images

Zadan (left) and Meron

Directed by choreographer Rob Marshall, the production -- which starred Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah -- became the first musical in 34 years to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Before "Chicago," the last musical to win the top Oscar was Sir Carol Reed's production of "Oliver!" (1968).

"Chicago" received five other Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction (John Myhre and Gordon Sim), Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood), Best Film Editing (Martin Walsh) and Best Sound Mixing (Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee). It also was nominated for Best Director, Best Actress (Zellweger), Best Supporting Actor (Reilly), Best Supporting Actress (Latifah), Best Adapted Screenplay (Bill Condon), Best Cinematography (Dion Beebe) and Best Original Song ("I Move On" by John Kander).

The producing duo was at the helm for the following Oscar telecasts:

  • The 85th Academy Awards (held February 24, 2013) -- hosted by Seth MacFarlane. Best Picture: "Argo"
  • The 86th Academy Awards (held March 2, 2014) -- hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Best Picture: "12 Years a Slave"
  • The 87th Academy Awards (held February 22, 2015) -- hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Best Picture: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"

The awards shows of Zadan and Meron were heavy on production numbers. A memorable performance was a 2015 tribute by Lady Gaga to "The Sound of Music," the 1965 Best Picture winner.

The 2014 Oscars show was the most-watched entertainment telecast in 10 years. A highlight was a group selfie featuring DeGeneres and several well-known nominees and audience members. The result was posted on Twitter and promptly set a record as the most-retweeted photo ever.

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The 2015 Academy Awards was not as successful -- either critically or in terms of viewership. Zadan and Meron later announced that the telecast was their final effort under a three-year contract.

"We've got to go back to our day job," Zadan said. "So it just sort of worked out where...we feel like we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish by doing the show for three years."

They also produced several live musical telecasts for NBC, including "The Sound of Music" (headlined by country singer Carrie Underwood), "Peter Pan" (starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken), "The Wiz Live!" (featuring Latifah) and the recent "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert" (with John Legend in the title role).

qJ5UvKRT_bigger.jpgBarbra StreisandVerified account@BarbraStreisand

I am shocked and saddened to hear of Craig Zadan’s passing. We collaborated on several projects…and he was always a joy to work with. His kindness and his creativity will surely be missed.

7skP51mK_bigger.jpgMark HarrisVerified account@MarkHarrisNYC

A staggering day of losses for the theater community: Barbara Harris, the wonderful stage actor Brian Murray, the director Vivian Matalon, and now, shocking news of the death of Craig Zadan, the producer who helped bring musicals back to TV.

I’m stunned and saddened by the unexpected passing of Craig Zadan. He’s been a friend my entire adult life, championed me to host the Oscars, brought musical theatre back to TV. A wonderful, kind spirit. My sincere condolences to his family and his partner, Elwood. #RIP

g0lGqC_J_bigger.jpegSeth MacFarlaneVerified account@SethMacFarlane

Immensely saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Craig Zadan. He was a fantastically talented, visionary producer who brought so much to every project he touched, and had so much more still to give. His loss is deeply felt by all who had the good fortune to know him.

Wow so sad to hear about Craig Zadan. He had music and dance in his soul. And when people are dancing and singing the world is a better place. RIP Craig and Cut Loose!

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