Screenwriter William Goldman has died. According to Deadline, friends and family have confirmed that Goldman, whose career spanned decades as an Oscar-winning screenwriter, script doctor, playwright, and author, died last night at his home in Manhattan. Goldman’s sister Jenny confirmed to the Washington Post that he died due to complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. Goldman scripted a long list of classic films, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Harper, and The Stepford Wives, and he also wrote over 16 novels, 2 of which are best remembered as source material for his outstanding film self-adaptations: The Princess Bride and Marathon Man. Raised in suburban Chicago under difficult circumstances, Goldman was a novelist before dabbling unsuccessfully in theater — an experience he documented in The Season, his 1969 nonfiction evisceration of Broadway. (“Never never write for Broadway,” he warned fledgling writers.) But soon he was conscripted by Hollywood. His screenplays could telegraph a character in a couple of words, and his dialogue was more efficient than the most market-tested movie taglines. (“Follow the money” is often attributed to the real-life Deep Throat, but that was Goldman, for All the President’s Men.) His quips, written and spoken, spared no one, including himself. He leaves behind not only indelible scripts but also a dishy book — half instruction manual and half tell-all — Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting (1983). He alternated showbiz koans — the most memorable, on the development process: “Nobody knows anything” — with anecdotes about actors that might have gotten him sued if they weren’t absolutely true. Defying his own warning about Broadway, his last big collaboration was a 2015 stage adaption of his screenplay for Misery, directed by Will Frears starring Bruce Willis in the role played by James Caan in the 1990 movie. Thanks to Goldman, we also know that Caan took the role after it was turned down by William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Richard Dreyfuss. Maybe nobody knows anything, but Goldman knew a lot, and said so. Goldman was 87.
William Goldman. Photo: Will Ragozzino/2009 Getty Images