A whole lot of credit for the massive critical and commercial success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens goes to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Vanity Fair just published a fascinating profile of the producer they dub “the most powerful woman in Hollywood.” Jumping between her personal accomplishments (winning U.S. Nationals for her age class in javelin only months after starting the sport) and her professional ones (producing over 60 movies, which have earned more then 120 Oscar nominations), the profile charts Kennedy’s long career and the work ethic that has made her so successful.
After starting out in the business as a producer’s assistant, Steven Spielberg eventually hired Kennedy as his own assistant on Raiders Of The Lost Ark, where she first met George Lucas. Kennedy then transitioned into producing, working on dozens of films with Spielberg, including E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Lincoln. In addition to co-founding Amblin Entertainment, Kennedy and her husband Frank Marshall also launched their own production company, Kennedy/Marshall, which produced the likes of The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Bourne Identity, and Seabiscuit.
After charting the breadth of her career, the profile zooms in on Kennedy’s takeover and management of Lucasfilm and the deft hand she had in shaping the new era of Star Wars films:
“I think [Lucasfilms], for a long time, was driven by waiting to see what George wanted to do,” Kennedy told me. “I don’t run this company that way. People aren’t sitting around waiting to see what Kathy wants to do.” As she views it, her staff looks to her for guidance, but they feel more empowered to act without her explicit approval.
The full profile—in which everyone from Harrison Ford to Cate Blanchett to Tony Kushner sings Kennedy’s praises—is available over on Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, those who want to learn more about Kennedy can also hear her chat about her career on the Nerdist podcast.