Kathleen Kennedy

time 100 2016 Kathleen Kennedy
Marco Grob for TIME

Cinematic explorer

When Kathy Kennedy told me that she’d been offered the job of running Lucasfilm, I hadn’t seen it coming, but I wasn’t surprised, exactly. Since her legendary career is defined by her refusal to be easily definable, Kathy will surprise me only if she’s ever unsurprising, and I’m not worried. She’s produced many of Steven Spielberg’s greatest films, she’s produced action franchises and extraordinary indie improbables like (back-to-back) Persepolis and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Now she’s de facto empress of a far-faraway cosmos, which seems to me the best thing that’s happened to big movie franchises since she joined Spielberg in creating the form. In her remarkably quiet way, eschewing as she always does the usual fanfare and pronouncements, Kathy’s already doing her thing, melding tradition and innovation, acknowledging and upending expectation, insisting that genre is, finally, a meaningless word for artists. However galactically vast the distances separating the worlds she brings to life, the constant in Kathy Kennedy’s career is her interest in investigating liberation, equality, justice, community—the decidedly human concerns that constitute the core of the art of making films.

Kushner is a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright

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