Women is...: Lynda Obst, Hollywood Producer

Lynda Obst, Hollywood Producer

profession:Producer of such hit films as "Sleepless in Seattle" and the upcoming "One Fine Day," Obst is one of a handful of successful female producers in Hollywood. She heads up Lynda Obst Productions, and she's just written a book, "Hello, He Lied," about how to get things done in Hollywood -- and in life.

born: April 14, 1950

education: BA, Philosophy, Pomona College, CA. Dropped out of Columbia University grad school in philosophy. "I had no expectation to leave Columbia. Then I got a C- on a metaphysics test because I wrote about love, and they told me it was an inappropriate topic." (Oddly enough, spiritual guru Marianne Williamson was her college roommate.)

the basic story: "I wouldn't have ended up in Hollywood left to my own trajectory. My first husband, David Obst, went to Hollywood for his career, and I had a baby, so I had to go." (David Obst was a big-time literary agent, representing journalist Bob Woodward among others, before he became a TV producer.)
why she stayed: "What hooked me, and I discovered this during the success of 'Flashdance' [her first movie], was having an influence on pop culture. A year after 'Flashdance' came out, all over the country there were girls in torn sweatshirts following their dreams."

first realization that she had power in the industry: "Very recently [around age 40] agents started calling me with their breaking movie stars. That meant I had influence in casting with the studio."

on making her presence felt (she's five feet): "When you can't be seen in elevators, you compensate, so I make a lot of noise. But the first step is to take yourself seriously."
movies she wishes she had made: "'All About Eve' -- the definitive portrait of women, and I think it's the most terrific screenplay. I'm in love with 'Inherit the Wind' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' They have huge cultural implications."

on cigarette smoking (she puffs away audibly during the phone interview): "Sadly, I'm a yogi who smokes," she says. "I quit on 'Sleepless,' then Drew Barrymore, my 'daughter' on 'Bad Girls,' re-eroticized smoking for me. I don't smoke on the weekends. It's totally associated with work for me."

what inspired her to write a book: "Ultimately, the voice of the producer is deferred. Once you get a script into production, you have to defer to the director, which is appropriate, because it's a director's medium. There's a part of me that wanted to escape from that deferred voice."