By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 07, 2001 03:56 PM

The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced that Laura Ziskin, a producer and former studio executive, will be producing the 74th annual Academy Awards telecast on March 24, 2002. (Nominations will be announced Feb. 12.) Ziskin, who graduated from USC’s Film School in 1973, has the distinction of being the first female who will produce the Oscars on her own. Lili Fini Zanuck and her husband, Richard, produced the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony, which was one of the longest in recent history. Last year’s show, produced by Gil Cates and hosted by Steve Martin, was among the lowest-rated, meaning that the Academy is clearly looking for Ziskin to add a lot of zest to the proceedings. Ziskin, who produced such films as “No Way Out” and the upcoming “Spider-Man,” started her own production company in 1999 after five years at the helm of Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox. Ziskin says it will not be her intention to reinvent the show, of which she claims to be a fan, “warts and all.” Still, her preliminary plan is to play up emotion — “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry,” she told the Los Angeles Times — and incorporate plenty of film clips. “I intend to borrow shamelessly from my predecessors, including Gil Cates, the Zanucks, Quincy Jones and others, and I will do everything I can to make the 74th Academy Awards show one you will be happy you stayed up to watch,” Ziskin told the Hollywood Reporter.