Hello. My name is William Goldman. I am a spooky ghost. Prepare to die.

mascan42

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nytimes.com
William Goldman, Screenwriting Star and Hollywood Skeptic, Dies at 87

William Goldman, who won Academy Awards for his screenplays for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men” and who, despite being one of Hollywood’s most successful screenwriters, was an outspoken critic of the movie industry, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 87.

The cause was colon cancer and pneumonia, said Susan Burden, his partner.

In his long career, which began in the 1960s and lasted into the 21st century, Mr. Goldman also wrote the screenplays for popular films like “Misery,” “A Bridge Too Far,” “The Stepford Wives” and “Chaplin.” He was a prolific novelist as well, and several of his screenplays were adapted from his own novels, notably “The Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man.”

In a business where writers generally operate in relative obscurity, Mr. Goldman became a celebrity in his own right; in his heyday, his name was as much an asset to a film’s production and success as those of the director and stars. Eight of his films each grossed more than $100 million domestically.

Called “the world’s greatest and most famous living screenwriter” by the critic Joe Queenan in a 2009 profile in The Guardian, Mr. Goldman achieved renown in Hollywood in the late 1960s when he sold his first original screenplay, for “Butch Cassidy,” to 20th Century Fox for $400,000 (the equivalent of more than $2.75 million in 2018 dollars), a record for a screenplay at the time.

Mr. Goldman had written the screenplay — the tale of two outlaws from history who try to evade the law in the Old West — in 1965 while teaching creative writing at Princeton University.

Released in 1969, “Butch Cassidy,” starring Paul Newman as Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid, helped propel the relatively unheralded Mr. Redford to superstardom and established Mr. Goldman as a major Hollywood player.

Despite his Hollywood success, though, Mr. Goldman viewed the film business with a jaundiced eye. As he often pointed out, he considered himself not a screenwriter but a novelist who wrote screenplays. He wrote more than 20 novels, some using pen names, in addition to more than 20 screenplays.

He also wrote stage plays, but with little success. Two of them opened on Broadway in the early 1960s but quickly closed. Late in his career he adapted his script for “Misery,” based on Stephen King’s thriller, for Broadway, but that was a disappointment as well, opening to poor reviews and closing after 102 performances.

Mr. Goldman chose to live in New York City rather than in Los Angeles, to avoid what he viewed as the distractions and irrationality of the Hollywood scene.

“Screenplay writing is not an art form,” he said in a Publishers Weekly interview in 1983, the year his best-selling insider’s view of Hollywood, “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” was published. “It’s a skill; it’s carpentry; it’s structure. I don’t mean to knock it — it ain’t easy. But if it’s all you do, if you only write screenplays, it is ultimately denigrating to the soul. You may get lucky and get rich, but you sure won’t get happy.”

In “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” Mr. Goldman made headlines in his famously thin-skinned industry when he declared, “Nobody knows anything,” a succinct assessment of the movie business that was embraced by Hollywood insiders and film critics alike. Expanding on his comment, he wrote, “Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.”

Mr. Goldman said many times that he did not consider himself a particularly gifted writer, but he displayed a deft touch as a storyteller when it came to writing screenplays. “I have a theory that we gravitate toward affection,” he said in a 1978 interview with The New York Times. “I have a facility for screenwriting. It’s gone very well. I needed something else to write besides novels, which are physically hard and take time. Since nobody wanted my stories and people seemed to want my screenplays, I gravitated toward affection.”

William Goldman was born on Aug. 12, 1931, in Highland Park, Ill., to Maurice and Marion (Weil) Goldman. His father was a businessman whose successful career was scuttled by alcoholism. As a child, William watched countless films at the venerable Alcyon Theater in Highland Park; he later said that that was probably where he got many of his best ideas.

At Oberlin College in Ohio, where he enrolled with the intent of becoming a writer, he encountered the first disappointments of his nascent career. “I was so programmed to fail,” he told The Guardian. “I had shown no signs of talent as a young man.”

He managed to get the worst grade in his creative writing class, and despite being fiction editor of the school’s literary magazine, he was unable to get a single story published in it. “Everything was submitted anonymously and every issue I would sneak in a story and the three of us ” — Mr. Goldman and two other editors — “would meet and I would listen while they both agreed whoever wrote this thing (my thing) was not about to get published,” Mr. Goldman wrote in “Adventures in the Screen Trade.”

Undaunted, after graduating with a degree in English from Oberlin he went to graduate school at Columbia. On receiving a master’s degree in 1956, he immediately began working on his first novel.

cont'd
 

Bobobie

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I didn't know Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid was Redford's Breakout role. I wonder how much more Newman made seeing he was already a huge box office draw.
 

DiggerNick

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He was a grumpy fucker, and later in life didn't seem to want to give directors credit for anything.

But he sure wrote some good shit, alongside some real garbage like DREAMCATCHER. I assume he got paid a tonne of money to adapt that turdburger of a novel.
 
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mascan42

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He was a grumpy fucker, and later in life didn't seem to want to give directors credit for anything.

But he sure wrote some good shit, alongside some real garbage like DREAMCATCHER. I assume he got paid a tonne of money to adapt that turdburger of a novel.
I think that was the one that convinced him to retire.
 

Floyd1977

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He was a grumpy fucker, and later in life didn't seem to want to give directors credit for anything.

But he sure wrote some good shit, alongside some real garbage like DREAMCATCHER. I assume he got paid a tonne of money to adapt that turdburger of a novel.
Well, it’s hard not to understand a screenwriter’s frustration with Hollywood. They’re an important cog of the process but from what I understand they’re typically treated pretty shitty. For those who remember the Jay Mohr show “Action” the way the screenwriter in that show was probably fairly accurate.
 

Discoman

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You can't knock this guys output, and frankly a good script can buttress even a shitty director.