William Goldman was probably my favorite writer in the world, though I had never met him. The prolific author and screenwriter is still part of the cultural lexicon, although some of his biggest movies came out decades ago. Tragically, this week William Goldman passed away at his home in Manhattan. He was 87 years of age at the time of his death.
News that William Goldman had died broke Friday, but the Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid Oscar winner reportedly died at his home on Thursday. His family and friends were present and his death wasn't sudden. Deadline reports he had not been well for some time and that his health had begun to fail sometime over the summer this year.
His partner Susan Burden told the NY Times that he had colon cancer and pneumonia at the time of his death.
There have been myriad screenwriters in Hollywood over the years, but not nearly as many are able to make quite the impact that William Goldman did. The man was an Oscar winner not once but twice, nabbing the coveted statue for both the aforementioned Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's Men.
He possibly most famously wrote the novel The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure in 1973. More than a decade later, Rob Reiner enlisted him to write the screenplay for The Princess Bride. The movie would not go on to do big business at the box office despite positive reviews; nonetheless, it is a classic comedy over 30 years later. In 2016 that movie was inducted in the National Film Registry, joining the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (joined 2003).
William Goldman would recall in a book by Richard Andersen that he had gotten more mail about The Princess Bride than any of his other projects combined, noting his fans wrote "all kinds of strange outpouring letters."
It wasn't just those projects that are fan favorites. Many of William Goldman's other screenplays are well-remembered. He penned Chaplin, the 1992 film that landed Robert Downey Jr. an Oscar nod. He also wrote the 1975 screenplay for The Stepford Wives. Beyond that, he was the talent behind Heat, Misery, Marathon Man, The Ghost and the Darkness, and Hearts in Atlantis.
In the business he was a juggernaut with a career spanning decades beginning in the 1960s. He continued working into the early 21st Century with Hearts in Atlantas (2001) and Dreamcatcher (2003).
Yet, in this moment it's The Princess Bride that is still striking and not because of the Sicilian's laughter or the R.O.U.S.' but for one small, profound quote he wrote: "Life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all."
William Goldman, you'll be missed.
Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.
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