April 7, 1944
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 1, 2002
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film producer, author|
|Spouse(s)||Michael Phillips (1966–74)|
|Parent(s)||Tanya and Adolph Miller|
Julia Phillips (April 7, 1944 – January 1, 2002) was an American film producer and author. She co-produced with her husband, Michael (and others), three prominent films of the 1970s — The Sting, Taxi Driver, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind — and was the first female producer to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, for The Sting.
In 1991, Phillips published an infamous tell-all memoir of her years as a Hollywood producer, entitled You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, which became a bestseller.
Born Julia Miller to a Polish Jewish family in New York City, the daughter of Tanya and Adolph Miller. Her father was a chemical engineer who worked on the atomic bomb project; her mother was a writer who became addicted to prescription drugs. She grew up in Brooklyn, Great Neck, New York, and Milwaukee. In 1965, she received a bachelor's degree in political science from Mount Holyoke College and in 1966, she married Michael Phillips. After school, she worked as book section or at the Ladies' Home Journal and then as a story or for Paramount Pictures. In 1971, after her husband had an unsuccessful career as a stockbroker, the couple moved to California where her husband wanted to get into film production. His first production was the 1973 film Steelyard Blues with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.
In 1972, Phillips along with her husband, Michael Phillips, and producer Tony Bill purchased the rights to the screenplay, The Sting for $5,000 in total. In 1973, The Sting won the Academy Award for Best Picture and made Phillips the first woman to win an Oscar as a producer (an award shared by Tony Bill and Phillips' then-husband Michael Phillips). In 1977, Taxi Driver, produced by the Phillipses, was nominated for Best Picture. Her third major film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was produced with Michael Phillips. One of the film's stars, François Truffaut, publicly criticized Phillips as incompetent, a charge she rejected, writing that she had essentially nursed Truffaut through his self-created nightmare of implied hearing loss, sickness and chaos during the production. Phillips was also a notorious drug user (cocaine especially), which she herself chronicled in detail in her memoirs. The side-effects of cocaine addiction caused her to be fired from Close Encounters of the Third Kind during post-production. Periods of drug abuse, gratuitous spending, and damaging boyfriends took their toll over the next several years before the publication of her first memoir.
Phillips's early work in a producing team with her husband continues to receive acclaim within the industry. Twenty-five years after its Oscar success, The Sting was inducted into the Producers Guild of America's Hall of Fame, granting each of its producers a Golden Laurel Award. In June 2007, Taxi Driver was ranked as the 52nd-best American feature film of all time by the American Film Institute. In December 2007, Close Encounters was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
In 1991, Phillips published You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again about her experiences in Hollywood. The book topped the New York Times bestseller list, but its revelations about high-profile film personalities, Hollywood's drug culture, and casting couch sensibilities drew ire from many former colleagues. Her follow-up book, Driving Under the Affluence, was released in 1995. It was mostly an account of how the success of her first book changed her life. In 2000, she also helped Matt Drudge write his Drudge Manifesto.
Phillips died in West Hollywood, California, at the age of 57, from cancer on New Year's Day, 2002, and was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. She has one daughter, Kate Phillips-Wiczyk, who is married to Modi Wiczyk, co-founder of independent film and television studio Media Rights Capital.