Julia Phillips, 57, a movie producer who in 1973 made Hollywood history as the first woman to win an Oscar for best picture -- for "The Sting" -- and who later published a scandalous autobiography, "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again," died of cancer Jan. 1 in her West Hollywood home.
The colorful and sharp-tongued Ms. Phillips was known as a creative player in the freewheeling 1970s, when young Hollywood filmmakers were gaining clout. She won the Academy Award as co-producer of the blockbuster "The Sting" and went on to co-produce Martin Scorsese's acclaimed "Taxi Driver" in 1976, followed by director Steven Spielberg's 1977 hit "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Accepting her Oscar for "The Sting," Ms. Phillips said: "You can imagine what a trip this is for a Jewish girl from Great Neck. I get to win an Academy Award and meet Elizabeth Taylor at the same time."
Her 1990 book helped redefine the nature of Hollywood autobiographies with its insider's chronicle of petty indiscretions and vindictiveness among the town's top echelons. She not only named names, she also offered sometimes harsh personal judgments of former friends in high places in the movie business.
In an image-conscious industry, her candor was not appreciated. The book alienated many among the industry's elite -- some of whom indeed never spoke to her again, at lunch or otherwise.
"You always have to pay your dues," she once told a reporter. "I paid them backwards -- starting at the top and going to the bottom."
Ms. Phillips, who was born in New York and grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she won awards for short-story writing.
After working in magazine publishing, Ms. Phillips joined Paramount Pictures in 1969 as its East Coast story editor. She headed Mirisch Productions in New York and later became creative executive for First Artist Productions. She later became president of her own company, Ruthless Productions.
Ms. Phillips, who was bright, stylish and profane, was a trailblazer in Hollywood, where female producers, directors and executives had found few opportunities, said producer Roz Heller, a longtime friend.
"Taxi Driver" was just one of the unpopular projects they had to fight to produce, Heller said. "We couldn't get the green light. I remember her being enormously pregnant, wearing a circle dress, standing up and saying, 'I'm going to drop this baby right now if we don't get this green light.' The men got very nervous," she said.
The film won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1976 and was a commercial hit.
Ms. Phillips had a visionary ability to identify talent, said writer Peter Biskind. At their Malibu beach house, she and her husband, Michael, entertained lavishly, and Ms. Phillips became preoccupied with drugs, especially cocaine. This led to her coming to grief over producing "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with Spielberg. "He essentially kicked her off the movie," Biskind said. "It pretty much ended her career."
By the time she published "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again," Ms. Phillips was ready to burn her bridges, friends said. In the book, she castigated the duplicity, selfishness and bottom line mentality of the town and insulted Hollywood's power brokers by name.
Some complained that Ms. Phillips's book was mean-spirited, riddled with inaccuracies and a thin effort to regain entry into the top echelons of Hollywood. But Ms. Phillips told People magazine: "I'm just being honest. I didn't write the book to get back in the business."
Her 1995 sequel, "Driving Under the Affluence," was poorly received. She spent the ensuing years dealing with financial troubles and working on writing projects.
Fascinated with mischief-making, Ms. Phillips co-wrote the 2000 "The Drudge Manifesto" with Matt Drudge, the Internet political gossip columnist. She also penned an essay on powerful Hollywood lesbians for Harper's Bazaar, she said in an interview, because she liked "any outlaw group that makes themselves apparent."