William Goldman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, died Thursday in Manhattan from complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. He was 87. His daughter Jenny Goldman confirmed the news to The Washington Post.
Goldman was born August 12th, 1931 in Highland Park, Illinois. He attended Ohio’s Oberlin College with the goal of becoming a writer, but he was unable to publish any work. After graduating in 1952, he entered the U.S. army and was discharged two years later; after graduating from New York’s Columbia University in 1956, he promptly began work on his first novel, 1957’s The Temple of Gold. “I was so panicked that I would end up my life as a copywriter in an ad agency in Chicago that I wrote [the book] in less than three weeks. I had no idea what I was doing,”,” he said in a 2001 online chat, The New York Times reports.
Over the next few years, he wrote several books and plays before transitioning into cinema with his script for the 1965’s Masquerade. Goldman balanced his book and film careers for decades, even adapting several of his own novels into screenplays (including the 1976 suspense-thriller Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman; and the 1987 fantasy comedy The Princess Bride).
Goldman earned acclaim for his work in varied genres, from Westerns (1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) to political-thrillers (All the President’s Men) to sci-fi/horror (his 1975 adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives) to war epics (his 1977 take on Cornelius Ryan’s novel A Bridge Too Far).
His eclectic filmography spans through the early 21st century – including Flowers For Algernon, The Great Waldo Pepper and Chaplin, along with several adaptations of Stephen King novels (1990’s Misery, 2001’s Hearts in Atlantis, 2003’s Dreamcatcher). He also worked as a playwright, memoirist and behind-the-scenes script doctor. His final produced screenplay was 2015’s Wild Card, based on his own novel.
Though he earned accolades as one of film’s greatest screenwriters, Goldman was often quick to note that he hadn’t discovered a “secret” to his craft. “Try and remember this: It ain’t about inspiration,” he once told hopeful writers. “It’s about going into a room alone and doing it. I wish you joy.”