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Craig Zadan, Award-Winning Producer, Dead at 69

Craig Zadan

Zadan brought lavish musicals and LGBTQ stories to screens big and small. 

Craig Zadan, who with producing partner Neil Meron created a plethora of award-winning films, TV shows, and stage productions, has died at age 69.

Zadan died Monday night at his home in the Hollywood Hills. The cause was complications from shoulder replacement surgery, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"It is with profound sadness that I am announcing the passing of my dear friend and colleague Craig Zadan, who died of complications following shoulder replacement surgery," NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt announced today. "On behalf of his life partner, Elwood Hopkins, and his producing partner, Neil Meron, we are stunned that the man behind so many incredible film, theatre, and television productions -- several of them joyous musicals -- was taken away so suddenly. Craig's distinguished career as a passionate and consummate producer is eclipsed only by his genuine love for the thousands of actors, directors, writers, musicians, designers, and technicians he worked with over the years. His absence will be felt in our hearts and throughout our business."

One of Zadan and Meron's greatest achievements was the musical film Chicago, which won the Best Picture Academy Award for 2002. They also produced the Academy Awards telecast from 2013 to 2015.

In 2015, Zadan spoke to The Advocate about how he developed his love of the Oscars ceremony. "When I was a really young kid, I lived in Queens and I used to take the subway in to Manhattan on Saturdays to see Broadway matinees," he said. "One of the very first shows I saw was Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, and I'll never forget when she won the Best Actress award [in 1969] for her role in that film. She picked up that Oscar, in that stunning outfit, and said, 'Hello, gorgeous.' I remember that as though it were yesterday, because that's the moment I knew I was a fan of the Oscars."

Over the past few years, he and Meron produced a spate of live musicals for television, including The Sound of Music, Hairspray, The Wiz, Peter Pan, and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. On Broadway they staged revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises, the latter starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.

Zadan and Meron, both gay, were involved with many LGBTQ-themed projects. These included the 1995 TV movie Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, starring Glenn Close as Cammermeyer, the Army nurse who fought her discharge for being gay, and the 2001 TV film What Makes a Family, about a lesbian's fight for custody of her child.

Zadan and Meron's projects picked up numerous awards -- six Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, 17 Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a Grammy Award, six GLAAD Awards, four NAACP Image Awards, and two Tony Awards, by The Hollywood Reporter's count. The GLAAD Awards included the Vito Russo Award, given annually to an out media professional who has promoted LGBTQ equality. They received it in 2012. Two of their efforts, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert and Flint, the latter about the Flint., Mich., water crisis, are up for Emmys at next month's ceremony.

Zadan was also the author of Sondheim & Co., a biography of composer Stephen Sondheim, published in 1974. He is survived by his partner, Hopkins.

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