Before Julia Phillips became the first woman to win the Academy Award for best picture, she excelled in creative writing at Mount Holyoke.
Called “feisty, funny, and blunt” by the New York Times, Phillips began her career at Ladies’ Home Journal and McCall’s magazines before becoming a story editor for Paramount Pictures in New York. She found her first success when she was hired to scout out material for Barbra Streisand.When Phillips and husband Michael moved to Los Angeles, they moved in the social circles of the Hollywood elite, counting Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro among their friends. The Phillipses formed a production company with Tony Bill; the results of this collaboration included the film classics Taxi Driver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Sting, which brought Phillips the best-picture Oscar.
Phillips wrote a bestselling autobiography about her experiences in “Tinseltown,” You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, that caused a furor even among the scandal-weary Hollywood regulars.
During Phillips’s early years in the industry, a female producer was practically unheard of. Yet she, along with her husband and Tony Bill, managed to produce some of the best-known and most popular films of the 1970s. Phillips’s early success broke new ground for women in Hollywood, and even beyond her Oscar-winning effort for The Sting, her contributions will be long remembered within American cinema.