William Goldman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who penned classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the Presidents Men, and The Princess Bride, has died. He was 87 years old.
He died in his Manhattan home on Thursday night, according to Deadline, surrounded by friends and family. A cause of death has not yet been reported, but the outlet notes that Goldmans health had been failing over the last few months.
Few film careers are as legendary as Goldmans. Though he began as a novelist, hes best known for his screenplays, several of which went on to become classics—including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the 1969 Western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and All the Presidents Men, the 1976 drama about the Watergate scandal, once again starring Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Goldman won screenplay Oscars for both films.
Goldman also wrote The Princess Bride—both the original novel and the screenplay for the film adaptation, directed by Rob Reiner. The fantasy comedy, often regarded as one of the best in American cinema, follows a charming farmhand who goes off to save a princess (a breakout role for then-newcomer Robin Wright). Goldman was dexterous with genres, able to move seamlessly from dramas to comedies to thrillers—he wrote the screenplay of Stephen Kings Misery, for example, starring Kathy Bates as the villainous Annie Wilkes.
For all the work he did in film, Goldman was just as prolific as a script doctor—a writer who is whisked into a project to tune up or overhaul an existing screenplay. Though he didnt receive screen credits for this work, its known that Goldman tweaked Aaron Sorkins courtroom drama A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal. He wrote about his craft in his seminal 1983 book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, (in which he coined this classic saying about Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything”), and in his 2000 follow-up, Which Lie Did I Tell? Heres how he described doctoring in the latter: “Doctoring is about one thing only: craft. I am dealing with a maimed and dying beast and the only question is: have I the skill to surgically repair it?”
In that book, he also addressed persistent rumors that he essentially wrote Good Will Hunting, the Boston-set drama starring and co-written by then-virtual unknowns Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The newcomers won Oscars for their original screenplay, kicking off two divergent and fruitful careers in the business. In his book, Goldman jokes about the rumors and explains the truth: Affleck and Damon took a meeting with Rob Reiner, who recommended they get rid of the extraneous chase and action sequences in the original script and stick to the character drama. Goldman, who later read the script and spent a day with the writers, seconded the idea. “All I said was this: Robs dead right,” Goldman wrote in the book. “Period. Total contribution: zero.”
Goldmans final screenplay credit came in 2015 when he adapted his novel Heat (made into a 1986 film starring Burt Reynolds) into a remake titled Wild Card, starring Jason Statham.
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Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.