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Paula Weinstein, Hollywood veteran and political activist, dies at 78

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Paula Weinstein, a film producer, studio executive and political activist who became a staunch advocate for women in her industry, died Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 78 years old.

His sister Lisa Weinstein confirmed the death. She added that the cause was not yet known.

In the boys’ club of Hollywood, Ms. Weinstein was the rare female leader: during her long career, she was president of United Artists, vice president of Warner Bros. and executive vice president of 20th Century Fox. She was just 33 when she was hired at Fox in 1978, and when she was promoted to vice president a year later, the Los Angeles Times called her “the highest-ranking woman in the industry.” ‘Film Industry “.

“A man can be mediocre at almost anything, but a woman has to be perfect,” she told Life magazine that year, when she was included in an article about Hollywood’s “Young Tycoons.” .

But Ms. Weinstein, who colleagues said possessed a wicked sense of humor — her sister described her laugh as infectious — and an unwavering commitment to social justice, was unusual in Hollywood, beyond of his sex. As Ken Sunshine, a veteran public relations consultant and longtime Democratic activist, said in a telephone interview: “Unlike so many others, she didn’t play in politics. For her, social and political change was essential. She was the antithesis of a fake Hollywood activist looking for good PR or a career boost. She was unique in a sea of ​​suitors.

Activism was a family affair: his mother, Hannah Weinstein, was a journalist and speechwriter who, in 1950, took her three young daughters to live in Paris and then London, fleeing the grim and punitive politics of the country’s McCarthy era. In Britain, where the family lived for more than a decade, Hannah Weinstein produced films and television series using blacklisted actors and writers like Ring Lardner Jr. and Ian McLellan Hunter . She repeatedly told her daughters, as Lisa recalled, “If you believe in something, you have to be willing to get off your ass and do something, and if you don’t get off your ass, you really didn’t believe it. inside.

“She was an intimidating role model,” added Lisa Weinstein.

It was Hannah who turned Paula towards the cinema, through Jane Fonda.

“Hannah was the first person I asked for money as an activist,” Ms. Fonda said in an email. “This involved opening the GI office in Washington, DC in 1970, where soldiers’ concerns could be brought to Congress. She gave me $2,000 – which was amazing in 1970. A few years later, Hannah called me to ask if I could help her daughter, Paula, who had just graduated from Columbia University, to find a job in Hollywood. She said I owed her one.

The two women then met for lunch at a Hamburger Hamlet in Los Angeles and were immediately smitten with each other. They were like-minded, both having participated in the anti-war protests of the 1960s and both having arrests under their belts – Ms. Weinstein’s for participating in a protest in Columbia. Soon after, Ms. Weinstein became Ms. Fonda’s agent, helping her land the role of Lillian Hellman in “Julia” (1977), based on Ms. Hellman’s book “Pentimento.”

“It helped that Lillian was Paula’s godmother,” Ms. Fonda said.

Her next job was at Fox, where she oversaw production of “9 to 5” (1980), the hit comedy starring Ms. Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as office workers who revolt against their sexist employer. Most recently, she reunited with Ms. Fonda and Ms. Tomlin as executive producer of the long-running Netflix series “Grace and Frankie.”

Ms. Weinstein produced more than 30 films, including “The Perfect Storm” (2000), starring George Clooney as a Massachusetts fishing boat captain — and co-starring in an epic nor’easter — as well as the comedy “Analysis This” (1999). ) and its sequel, “Analyze That” (2002), with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. She was also a founder, with Ms. Fonda, Barbra Streisand and others, of the Hollywood Women’s Political Committeea fundraising powerhouse for liberal candidates and causes from 1984 to the late 1990s.

With her husband, Marc Rosenberg, whom she met when they were both members of the national activist organization Students for a Democratic Society, Ms. Weinstein made several films, including “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989), starring Jeff and Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer, and “Fearless” (1993), also starring Jeff Bridges. They also made “Citizen Cohn” (1992), an HBO film about Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer and fixer — a subject close to Ms. Weinstein’s heart, given her upbringing. Their last joint production was “Flesh and Bone” (1993); Mr. Rosenberg died of heart failure at the age of 44 while working on the filming of this film.

Ms. Weinstein continued to make films for Spring Creek Productions, the company she and her husband had started – including another HBO film: “Tell» (2008), a political thriller based on the end of the 2000 presidential election and Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that decided the election in favor of George W. Bush.

“Paula knew how to marry the commercial with the political,” said Lucy Fisher, a veteran producer and former vice president at Sony Pictures, who considered Ms. Weinstein a mentor, “but not in a medicinal way. She invented the format that became HBO’s imprimatur, the high-quality but chatty behind-the-scenes drama.

Paula Weinstein was born on November 19, 1945, in Manhattan, the youngest of three daughters. His mother, Hannah (Dorner) Weinstein, met his father, Isidore Weinstein, known as Pete, when they were hired as speechwriters for Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. At the time, Hannah was a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and Pete was a reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle.

The couple separated in 1950 and Hannah subsequently left the country with her daughters. They returned to the United States in 1962, and Paula enrolled in Colombia soon after.

In addition to her sister Lisa, Ms. Weinstein is survived by another sister, Dina, and her daughter, Hannah Rosenberg.

Since 2013, Ms. Weinstein was Chief Content Officer at Tribeca Enterprises, which includes the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Studios, where she developed branded content and led mentorship programs for emerging screenwriters and directors. She left Tribeca last fall to focus on political work.

“I don’t want to stand aside and complain about everything. I really want to throw myself fully into campaigns. Campaigns both statewide and national,” she told Deadline magazine after he left. “It really feels like a time…between the climate, the book ban, and everything else that I don’t need to address.”

When Ms. Weinstein died, tributes poured in from colleagues and friends, including Debora Cahn, a writer and producer.

“Paula was a force of nature,” Ms. Cahn wrote. “She taught me so much about so many things. How to stand up and be the thing. Stand in front. Speak loud. Be outraged and happy.

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