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Ronni Chasen: a life in film

Following the death of the veteran publicist, this year’s awards season is missing one of its most beloved figures.

Publicity doyenne Ronni Chasen is being fondly remembered around the awards circuit this year, as well as by the broader Hollywood community. She was a human typhoon whose absence will be felt all the more acutely this season, a time when the industrious professional went into overdrive.

Chasen, 64, died in the early hours of Tuesday, November 16. She had been in the thick of awards campaigns for Alice In Wonderland and several composer clients.

What was crystal clear the moment news of her death filtered through was the widespread love and admiration in which she was held.

Over the course of a career which spanned more than 35 years, the New York-born Chasen headed publicity for American International Pictures and served for a decade at Rogers & Cowan, where she led the film division for much of the 1980s. She later became senior vice-president of publicity at MGM prior to launching her boutique agency Chasen & Co.

Chasen brought an expertise, indefatigable spirit and passion to more than 150 Oscar nominations and numerous wins, including seven for best picture: The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country For Old Men, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Chicago, Shakespeare In Love and Driving Miss Daisy.

Chasen was also a longtime champion of the Ghent International Film Festival and its World Soundtrack Awards.

Friends said her loyalty and willingness to work flat out for a client or cause was one of her defining traits. She was tenacious and opinionated, and gifted with a sense of humour and ability to step back at the right time which ensured dealings remained cordial and often entertaining.

Chasen & Co became synonymous with music. Its figurehead guided many composers to success including Hans Zimmer, who would tell attendees at Chasen’s funeral how he regarded her as a member of his family. Harry Gregson-Williams, another client, wrote a piece of music for the service.

More than 500 people were in attendance to bid farewell to Chasen on Sunday, November 21, 2010 at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.

Friends spoke fondly of her intellect, wit and warmth, including Lili Zanuck, Chasen’s brother Larry Cohen and her longtime associate Jeff Sanderson.

Friends and colleagues remember Ronni Chasen

Larry Cohen: “Ronni was a loving and caring person who treated her clients like they were her own family. She was my sister and best friend and we shared so many wonderful times together.”

Jeff Sanderson: “She was an iconic publicist who loved her clients and always strived to do her best for them. To me, she was not only my colleague and mentor for over 18 years but also my dearest friend and a part of my family. I will feel her loss every day but she will always be a part of my life.”

Richard Zanuck, producer: “Ronni worked with us on every picture we made since The Verdict and has been a loving and dear friend for so many years. To think of not being able to get her on the other end of the phone is unimaginable. She was the best publicist in the business in our opinion whose tireless and determined energy, combined with her love of movies, made her one of a very special breed.”

Hans Zimmer: “Ronni was the best. And in a town where ‘the best’ is used much too casually, she was truly singular… I only just saw her at the Governors Awards [on November 13]. She was radiant. She knew everybody in the room. She took Chris Nolan over to the next table and introduced him to George Lucas. I was watching her standing there listening to them and I thought, ‘There’s my friend Ronni, introducing two great directors to each other. She’s on top of her game.’”

Amanda Lundberg, partner, 42West: “She was warm, smart and so very funny. Ronni didn’t just love what she did but she was at the top of her game. It speaks volumes that hundreds of people are devastated by this loss, and all count Ronni as a friend.”

Donald De Line, producer, Burlesque: “I’ve known Ronni my whole career. When she represented you, she was an unshakable support. Ronni always stayed focused and as much as anyone I’ve ever known, she genuinely loved her work. Her enthusiasm was unyielding and I was always amazed by her ability to bring newfound excitement to every movie. I loved Ronni and she meant a lot to me.”

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