Oscar-winning writer William Goldman, dies aged 87

Oscar-winning writer of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, William Goldman, dies aged 87 in his Manhattan home after colon cancer and pneumonia battle

  • Goldman died of complications from pneumonia and colon cancer
  • He became a celebrity screenwriter after selling ‘Butch Cassidy’ for $400,000
  • He also wrote hits such as ‘Marathon Man,’ ‘Heat’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ 

Novelist turned screenwriter William Goldman, who is responsible for Oscar-winning ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘All the President’s Men’, has died aged 87. 

Goldman’s daughter Jenny said her father died early Friday in New York due to complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. 

‘So much of what’s he’s written can express who he was and what he was about,’ she said, adding that the last few weeks, while Goldman was ailing, revealed just how many people considered him family. 

Goldman is survived by Jenny, as well as partner Susan Burden and a grandson. His daughter, Susanna Goldman, from his marriage to Ilene Jones that ended in divorce, died in 2015.

William Goldman, legendary Hollywood screenwriter, dies at 87 due to complications from pneumonia and colon cancer

‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969) made William Goldman a staggering $400,000 at the time in a studio bidding war

In a career spanning decades, the award-winning writer had a penchant for turning his novels into hit screenplays such as ‘Marathon Man,’ ‘Heat’ and ‘The Princess Bride’.

The film business veteran had also written ‘the book on screenwriting’ according to the Hollywood Reporter in his non-fiction tome, ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ that demystified the world of cinema.

‘Nobody knows anything,’ Goldman opined. ‘Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.’ 

Throwback: ‘Nobody knows anything,’ William Goldman once wrote of the movie industry in his book ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’

Dustin Hoffman (Carl Bernstein) and Robert Redford (Bob Woodward) in ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976). William Goldman won an Academy Award for the adaptation of the book about the Watergate Scandal

He also broke new ground for screenwriter celebrity, according to the Washington Post, when he became renowned (and maligned) for the bidding war that made him $400,000 for ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’

Goldman was not only a successful film writer but a top script doctor, the industry title for an uncredited writer brought in to improve or ‘punch up’ weak screenplays.

Goldman was born August 12, 1931, in Chicago, and went on to live a self-described miserable childhood in Highland Park, Illinois, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Goldman, at age 15, was the one to discover the body of his father who had committed suicide.

William Goldman accepting the 1977 Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation of ‘All the President’s Men’ presented to him by Norman Mailer

Goldman’s ‘The Princess Bride’ (1987) was based on his 1973 fantasy novel that featured the talents of Robin Wright and Cary Elwes

Goldman also made political history by coining the phrase ‘follow the money’ in his script for ‘All the President’s Men,’ adapted from the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the Watergate political scandal.  

His advice, ‘Follow the money,’ became so widely quoted that few people realized it was never said during the actual scandal.

A confirmed New Yorker, Goldman declined to work in Hollywood. Instead, he would fly to Los Angeles for two-day conferences with directors and producers, then return home to fashion a script, which he did with amazing speed.  


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