Oscar Artists: Goldman, William, Two-Time Oscar Writer, Dies at 87

William Goldman, who won two Oscars, for his original screenplay for the cult western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and for his adaptation of the political chronicle All the President’s Men, died on Friday in New York.  He was 87.

Complications from colon cancer and pneumonia were the cause of his death, according to his daughter, Jenny Goldman.

“Butch Cassidy,” a revisionist Western that helped popularize the buddy movie, announced Goldman as a screenwriter able to balance humor and adventure, while “All the President’s Men” cemented his status as a writer of suspense. The two are considered to be among the finest screenplays ever written and exemplify Goldman’s range and versatility.

Goldman also transferred some of his own novels, “Magic,” “The Princess Bride” and “Marathon Man,” to the big screen.

He wrote several books about the movie business. His books, “Adventures in the Screen Trade” and “Hype and Glory,” criticized the risk aversion by studio execs that often prevented creativity.  He once famously observed “nobody knows anything,” a line often quoted on studio lots and executive suites.

Goldman also turned his penetrating eyes towards the stage and professional sports, collaborating on accounts of those industries. As with his scripts, he brought acute observation, entertainment value and, especially, wit to even his most serious enterprises.

Goldman did uncredited jobs on such films as “Indecent Proposal,” “The Right Stuff” and “Good Will Hunting,” as well as some schlocky Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks, “The Last Action Hero.”

His 1964 novel “Boys and Girls Together” got bad reviews but became Goldman’s first bestseller. That same year he wrote “No Way to Treat a Lady,” a comic thriller that also later became a film. It was published under one of many pseudonyms he used, Harry Longbaugh (the real name of the Sundance Kid).

A screenwriting career occurred by accident. Actor Cliff Robertson asked Goldman to adapt the short story “Flowers for Algernon” to the screen. Though none of Goldman’s work made it into the movie eventually called “Charley,” it was through Robertson that Goldman was brought in to work on the 1965 caper movie “Masquerade,” his first produced film, for which he shared the script credit with Michael Relph.

Goldman next adapted Ross MacDonald’s “The Moving Target,” which became the successful movie “Harper,” starring Paul Newman.

Goldman always considered himself first and foremost a novelist, but his scripts were so popular and generated so much money that he could not resist a Hollywood career as a scribe. He was paid an unprecedented $400,000 for his original script for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”  The 1969 Western, pairing Newman and Robert Redford for the first time, became one of the decade’s biggest hits and made Goldman a screenwriter in demand.

Goldman adapted his 1974 novel “Marathon Man” as a screen vehicle for Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. The ending of the movie was changed without his consent, but the film contains a sequence of torture that is still scary and powerful.

He wrote a heist comedy “The Hot Rock” in 1972, an adaptation of Ira Levin’s “The Stepford Wives” in 1975, and “The Great Waldo Pepper,” which became one of Redford’s few commercial flops.

His 1976 novel “Magic” made it to the screen, serving as Taylor Hackford’s directing debut, with Anthony Hopkins before he became a star.