Ileen Maisel, Veteran Studio Executive and ‘Golden Compass’ Producer, Dies at 68

Ileen Maisel, who served as a studio executive at Paramount, Lorimar and New Line Cinema and as a producer on films including Onegin, Ripley’s Game and The Golden Compass, has died. She was 68.

Maisel died Feb. 16 of cancer in London, her home for the past 34 years, her sister, Hollywood publicist Cheryl Maisel, announced.

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Maisel received a BAFTA nomination for best British film for producing Samuel Goldwyn’s Onegin (1999), starring Ralph Fiennes, and was said to be most proud of her work on the Fine Line Features thriller Ripley’s Game (2002), starring John Malkovich.

In addition to the New Line fantasy The Golden Compass (2007), which starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and grossed $372.2 million at the global box office, her other producing credits included Twelfth Night (1996), Inkheart (2008), and Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism (2015).

Born in Los Angeles on April 6, 1955, Ileen Marla Maisel began working for entertainment journalist Rona Barrett at age 15.

She was hired by former Paramount Pictures president Frank Yablans as head of development at his independent production company in 1980, and when he was named vice chairman and COO of MGM/United Artists three years later, he brought her along.

Maisel then joined Bernie Brillstein as senior vp production at Lorimar, where she supervised the making of Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons (1988), winner of three Oscars.

She was put in charge of European production for Paramount in 1989, moved to Fine Line in 1994 as a consultant and was named senior vp European production and acquisitions in 1998 at Fine Line’s sister company New Line.

In 2009, she partnered with documentary filmmaker Lawrence Elman to launch Amber Entertainment, the company behind the 2013 version of Romeo & Juliet that starred Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth and was adapted by Julian Fellowes.

Maisel had hired Fellowes as a script editor in the 1990s, and he was “immediately impressed by her respect for audiences,” he wrote in appreciation. “She was determined they should enjoy her films and have a good time watching them. In those days, audiences were not necessarily a high priority for many filmmakers, who were more anxious to display their own beliefs and angst as they tussled with the challenges of life.”

His work for her led to him writing his Oscar-winning screenplay for Gosford Park (2001), directed by Robert Altman. He thanked Maisel during his acceptance speech.

More recently, she worked at Fox 2000 and 20th Century Fox Television and was an executive producer on Big Rad Wolf, a 2020 documentary series about the American Apparel brand.

Maisel was buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City on Feb. 26. Her partner of 14 years, legendary British casting director Mary Selway, a frequent collaborator, died of cancer in 2004 at age 68.

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