Buck Henry, screenwriter for The Graduate and co-creator of Get Smart, has died at the age of 89. Henry died of a heart attack at a hospital in Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.
Born Henry Zuckerman in 1930 in New York City, the noted screenwriter was also a regular host in the early days of Saturday Night Live during its first five seasons: He often appeared as the foil to John Belushi’s Samurai Futaba in that series of classic sketches — in one sketch, “Samurai Stockbroker,” Belushi’s sword left a gash in Henry’s forehead, but he persevered to host the remainder of the episode with a bandage — as well as Bill Murray’s father in “The Nerds” sketches. Additional TV credits included parts on Murphy Brown, Will & Grace and Liz Lemon’s dad, Dick Lemon, on 30 Rock.
His acting chops extended into films, appearing in more than 40 movies, which included The Graduate, Catch-22, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Eating Raoul and Grumpy Old Men.
Among his career accolades, he was nominated for two Oscars — one for his work on The Graduate and the other for co-directing the 1978 film Heaven Can Wait alongside Warren Beatty. In 1967, Henry received an Emmy for Get Smart, the spy spoof series he co-created with Mel Brooks; Henry is credited with concocting the show’s “Cone of Silence.”
Over a career that spanned from Fifties variety shows and Hollywood fare to the stage and indie films, Henry also wrote the scripts for the 1970 film adaptation of Catch-22, the Barbra Streisand-starring The Owl & The Pussycat, the sci-fi film The Day of the Dolphin, the 1984 Goldie Hawn comedy Protocol, the black comedy To Die For and First Family, which Henry also directed. However, Henry is best known for his writing on The Graduate, lacing the Charles Webb novel with the unmistakable dry humor that was a trademark of Henry’s work; it was Henry who penned one of the film’s most iconic scenes:
“Buck Henry was hilarious and brilliant and made us laugh more times than we even know,” Judd Apatow wrote on Instagram. “I was lucky enough to be on a panel with him at SXSW and he was so funny. He said ‘I don’t like to write with people because if they aren’t as funny as me I hate them and if they are funnier than me I hate them.’ He wrote The Graduate and To Die For and co created Get Smart and was a riot hosting SNL back when they would let a writer host SNL. One of the greats.”