Paula Weinstein, Hollywood Veteran and Political Activist, Dies at 78

Paula Weinstein, a movie producer, studio executive and political activist who became a fierce advocate for women in her industry, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 78.

Her sister Lisa Weinstein confirmed the death. She said the cause was not yet known.

In the boy’s club of Hollywood, Ms. Weinstein was the rare female top executive: Over her long career, she was president of United Artists, a vice president of Warner Bros. and an executive vice president at 20th Century Fox. She was just 33 when she was hired at Fox in 1978, and when she was promoted to vice president a year later, The Los Angeles Times called her “the highest-ranking woman in the motion picture industry.”

“A man can be mediocre in almost everything, but a women’s got to be perfect,” she told Life magazine that year, when she was included in an article about Hollywood’s “Young Tycoons.”

But Ms. Weinstein, who colleagues said possessed a wicked sense of humor — her sister described her laugh as an infectious cackle — and a steely commitment to social justice, was unusual in Hollywood beyond her gender. As Ken Sunshine, the veteran public relations consultant and longtime Democratic activist, put it in a phone interview: “Unlike so many, she didn’t play at politics. To her, social and political change was paramount. She was the antithesis of a phony Hollywood activist looking for good P.R. or a career boost. She was unique in a sea of pretenders.”

Ms. Weinstein accepted the Emmy Award for the HBO movie “Recount” in 2008. She was an executive producer on the film, which was based on the 2000 presidential election.Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Activism was the family business: Her mother, Hannah Weinstein, was a journalist and speechwriter who in 1950 took her three young daughters to live in Paris and then London, fleeing the grim and punitive politics of the country’s McCarthy era. In Britain, where the family lived for more than a decade, Hannah Weinstein produced movies and television series using blacklisted actors and writers like Ring Lardner Jr. and Ian McLellan Hunter. She repeatedly told her daughters, as Lisa recalled, “If you believe in something, you have to be willing to get up off your ass and do something, and if you don’t get up off your ass, you really didn’t believe in it.”

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