New Releases

Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker

April 25, 2017


Stephen Galloway has written the first and only full-length biography of Sherry Lansing, "the first woman to reign” in Hollywood, “and still the one who did it best."

“With great insight and exceptional research, this biography shows just what made [Sherry] so special, what allowed her to break every glass ceiling and become one of the most brilliant and talented producers and executives Hollywood has ever known.” – Michael Douglas

“This book, drawing on hundreds of interviews with Sherry and the people who know her best, takes us inside her thinking, into the heart of Hollywood, and on to her groundbreaking work in health and education.”—President Jimmy Carter


When Sherry Lansing became president of 20th Century Fox in 1980 at the age of thirty-five, she didn’t just shatter the seemingly indestructible glass ceiling of America’s most visible industry, she also broke an unspoken taboo: that in Hollywood, men ran the studios and called the shots.

But Lansing, a big-dreaming girl from Chicago, didn’t see it that way. Starting out as a math teacher in some of the toughest schools of South Central Los Angeles, she rose to become the most powerful woman Hollywood has ever known.

In Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker (on sale April 25), award-winning journalist Stephen Galloway tells the definitive story of a creative innovator and unrelenting executive who breathed new life into Hollywood with such classics as Forrest Gump, Fatal Attraction, Braveheart, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Indecent Proposal and The China Syndrome, along the way becoming an entertainment industry icon.

The first and only full-length biography of Lansing, based on four years of research and hundreds of hours of interviews with her and some two hundred others, Leading Lady is the fascinating account of the epic journey of a woman who drew on her own vision and courage to transform the industry that tells the world’s stories.

With his rich knowledge of the industry, Galloway, executive editor, features, for The Hollywood Reporter, pulls back the curtain on contemporary Hollywood, detailing Lansing’s intimate involvement with many of today’s biggest stars—among them Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, Ben Affleck, Angelina Jolie, and Leonardo DiCaprio—and her deep and at times stormy relationships with the likes of Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, and Harrison Ford.

True to the powerful dramatic storytelling Lansing insisted on throughout her career, Galloway also provides a rare glimpse of the head-to-head battles she fought with other Hollywood heavyweights—from Robert Redford to Mike Myers, Scott Rudin to Robert Zemeckis—along with astonishing and previously unreported stories about the inner workings at Hollywood’s highest levels, involving everyone from Steven Spielberg to Sumner Redstone.

Leading Lady traces the full arc of Sherry’s life, detailing how the one-time teacher became an idealistic young actress who gave up her dreams of stardom for an even bigger vision. It’s the story of the enduring love between Lansing and her husband, Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin (The Exorcist); it’s the story of a woman driven to create change through groundbreaking philanthropy in everything from cancer to education, eventually as chairman of the University of California’s Board of Regents; and it’s the story of a woman who used her passion, talent and perseverance to make movies that have inspired millions of people around the world with tales of meaning and risk-taking, love and obsession, generosity and jealousy, self-sacrifice, service and faith. But at its core, Leading Lady is the story of an unflinching woman who, refusing to let others define her, defined herself—and redefined the possibilities for women across America.

“She was the first woman to reign in this man’s world,” writes Galloway, “and still the one who did it best.”



Stephen Galloway is a critically acclaimed entertainment reporter and winner of the Entertainment Journalist of the Year Award in 2013. He is the executive features editor for The Hollywood Reporter, and was the moderator for the 2014 season of The Hollywood Masters, a TV series featuring interviews with major Hollywood directors, such as David O. Russell and Judd Apatow.

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