William Goldman

Active - 1965 - 2018  |   Born - Aug 12, 1931 in Highland Park, Illinois, United States  |   Died - Nov 16, 2018   |   Genres - Thriller, Comedy, Drama, Adventure, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The younger brother of writer James Goldman, William Goldman has successfully tackled every sort of professional writing, from children's books to novels to essays to plays to screenplays. He is even more prolific than some people might assume: several of Goldman's works were published under the nom de plume Harry Longbaugh. Goldman is at his best with iconoclastic historical pieces, notably his Oscar-winning screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President's Men (1976). He has also expertly adapted many of his own novels to the screen: Marathon Man (1976) (another Oscar winner), Magic (1978), Heat (1979) and The Princess Bride (1987). Goldman has earned a reputation as an ace "script doctor," offering his uncredited services to projects that might otherwise be unfilmable. A perceptive inside observer of the movie business, Goldman has written two revelatory nonfiction books, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983) and Hype and Glory (1990). He recently returned to the "revisionist" western format he'd popularized in Butch Cassidy with his screenplay for Mel Gibson's Maverick (1994). Over the coming years, Goldman's works like Hearts in Atlantis and Dreamcatcher would continue to appear on screen.

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  • Published his first novel, the coming-of-age story Temple of Gold, in 1957.
  • Before trying his hand at writing screenplays, he wrote five novels and three Broadway plays.
  • Spent eight years working on his debut screenplay, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). After most of the major studios passed on it, the script eventually sold for a record $400,000 and the film became one of the highest-grossing westerns of all time.
  • Published a nonfiction book called The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway in 1969.
  • Although he claimed the 1972 novel The Princess Bride is an abridgment of an earlier book by S. Morgenstern, it is entirely original and S. Morgenstern was actually Goldman's pseudonym.
  • His nonfiction book about Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1984), introduced a popular quote often used in reference to the movie business: "Nobody knows anything."
  • Won the Writers Guild's Laurel Award in 1985.