Blinn’s family confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the screenwriter died Thursday of natural causes at an assisted living community in Burbank, California.
After starting his career as a writer on TV Westerns like Gunsmoke, Rawhide and Bonanza, Blinn has tasked with adapting Gale Sayers’ memoir about the Chicago Bears running back’s friendship with his terminally ill teammate Brian Piccolo as the television movie Brian’s Song in 1971.
Blinn would win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama – Adaptation, an award he’d win again for his work on the famed 1977 miniseries Roots. Blinn also the creator of the Seventies cop series Starsky & Hutch.
In a 1984 Rolling Stone feature about the making of Purple Rain, Blinn was approached by Prince’s management about helping to convert Prince’s purple notebook filled with film ideas into an actual movie.
“At first, I thought it was a kind of strange request,” Blinn says. “But he really identifies with purple. There’s a whole dark, passionate, foreboding quality to the color and to what he does. Yet there’s a certain royalty to it, too.”
“I never met anyone in the world who ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce and orange juice to drink,” Blinn recalled of his first meeting with Prince — who he’d previously never heard of — at a Los Angeles Italian restaurant. “He’s definitely got his own drummer going.”
Blinn, who was producing a television series based on the film Fame at the time, agreed to take on the challenge of writing the movie which Prince had been calling Dreams, even through Blinn’s first draft; midway through the second draft, Prince told Blinn to put “Purple” in the title.
“At first, I thought it was a kind of strange request,” Blinn said. “But he really identifies with purple. There’s a whole dark, passionate, foreboding quality to the color and to what he does. Yet there’s a certain royalty to it, too.”
After two drafts of Purple Rain, Blinn left the project and returned to Fame, with the film’s director Albert Magnoli ultimately rewriting much of the story. Blinn and Magnoli were co-credited as writers on the upon the film’s release. Purple Rain remained Blinn’s lone big-screen credit, though he later worked on TV series like Eight Is Enough, Our House and Pensacola: Wings of Gold.
“I watched [Purple Rain] it about a year ago, and for a 20-year-old movie it’s held up pretty well. Sometimes when you go back, you think ‘That wasn’t a good idea,'”Blinn told Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2004. “For [young people] it was seminal. It took their music and said, ‘We can do a musical, just like the big boys.’…The movie could’ve been more edgy, but for what it was, we came up with a very good picture.”