LOS ANGELES - Seven years ago Megan Ellison took a leave from the University of Southern California to climb the mountains of Nepal. On Sunday, the 27-year-old daughter of billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hopes to climb the Dolby Theater stage in Hollywood to accept the Best Picture Oscar for "Zero Dark Thirty."
It could be a tough ascent for Ellison, who spent $43 million (S$54.1 million) to produce the film, which is nominated for five Academy Awards. Director Kathryn Bigelow's drama about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden was passed over for a Golden Globe, often a predictor of the Oscars, and also missed out on the Screen Actors Guild's top film prize. "Argo" took both.
Still, the younger Ellison has scaled Hollywood's rungs of influence and power with startling rapidity despite scarcely a dozen films to her credit.
She already has Oscar experience, helping to finance the 2010 Jeff Bridges film "True Grit," nominated for 10 Oscars.
This year, she produced director Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," about a charismatic sect leader played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, which earned him and co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams Oscar nominations.
"She is bringing great projects to the screen and doing good things for this business," said Bill Gerber, who produced the Clint Eastwood film "Gran Torino" and has not met Ellison. "She is like the legendary producer Hal Wallis ("Casablanca"), who bet on filmmakers and let them realize their dreams."
Deep pockets help. Larry Ellison's only daughter has a hefty trust fund to draw on, and is one of a growing number of wealthy business scions who employ their family coffers to bankroll movies.
Teddy Schwarzman, the 33-year-old son of Blackstone Group Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman, produced this year's Mark Walhberg film "Broken City." John Powers Middleton, the 29-year-old son of Philadelphia Phillies part-owner John S. Middleton, is producing nine films and the planned TV series"Bates Motel," according to film information website IMDB.com.
Megan Ellison's 30-year-old sibling, David, raised $350 million in debt and equity in 2010 and produces big-budget action films with Viacom's Paramount Pictures, such as this year's "Star Trek into Darkness."
His sister largely keeps to herself in a town where glad-handing, fancy parties and showy appearances is currency.
She doesn't give interviews. She took a power lunch with"Master" director Paul Thomas Anderson at a neighborhood eatery called Jerry's Deli and has gone to meetings on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.