Friday, November 16th, 2018

William Goldman has died at age 87:

He was born in Chicago, went to Oberlin College in Ohio, served briefly in the military and got a master’s in English from Columbia University in New York.

He launched a successful literary career immediately after graduating from Columbia with his first novel, The Temple of Gold. A series of well-received and sometimes bestselling novels followed.

Then, in 1965, Goldman started to shift into movie territory. He helped on the script for Masquerade (1965) and adapted Harper (1966). Then he wrote his first-ever original screenplay.

That beginner’s stab at screenwriting was none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It sold for the then-record sum of $400,000 (some $3 million in 2018 dollars) and won Goldman an Oscar in 1970 for best original screenplay.

That was just the start. Goldman went on to adapt The Stepford Wives, adapt All the President’s Men — another Oscar-winning screenplay — and turn his own novels Marathon Man and Magic into films.

Ten screenplays later, Goldman still didn’t see himself as a Hollywood man. “I’m not a screenwriter,” he told The New York Times in 1979. “I’m a novelist who writes screenplays.”

But he knew enough to write the definitive guide to screenwriting. Adventures in the Screen Trade was published in 1983 and became a bestseller. Screenwriting professor George Huang tells NPR’s Neda Ulaby the book “was like the Bible in the industry” — and that the advice in it still holds up today.

And then there was The Princess Bride.

The 1987 film, which Goldman adapted from his own novel, performed modestly at the box office upon its initial release. But as the years passed, it found a passionate following. Lines from the movie have woven their way into the fabric of pop culture — “Inconceivable!” “Aaaaas youuuuu wiiiiiish.” “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”


  1. Brent Curtis says:

    Different groups use different quotes. The one that stuck around my peers in my 20s was “Have fun storming the castle!”

    The quote that shows up in my timeline on twitter most would be “I do not think that it means what you think it means.”

    The quote that I think gets used by my kids is the “Stop rhyming and I mean it!” couplet. They haven’t seen the movie in ages; we’ll watch it again in honor of Mr Goldman.

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