RIP William Goldman

Novelist and screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Princess Bride, Great Waldo Pepper, Marathon Man, Misery, A Bridge Too Far, Harper, etc. dies at 87.

His book ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ is effectively an Old Testament to many who have aspired to screenwriting, myself included.

If you’re a really good screenwriter, you may get SUPER lucky, and land one phrase into a movie that becomes part of the national idiom.

William Goldman did that as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

It’s a damned shame that his last screenplay credit was, ugh, Dreamcatcher.

I started reading his books in college around the same time I started catching up on Harlan Ellison, who also died this year. Harlan’s and Bill’s non-fiction (besides Adventures in the Screen Trade, Which Lie Did I Tell? was also terrific) started sounding like the same guy in my head. A clever, funny guy who knew he was clever and funny, who wanted to impart hard-earned secrets to his good friend the reader.

We went to see The Lion In Winter last year, the terrific play by William’s brother James. I didn’t realize they were brothers. Afterwards, I asked the dramaturge if the sibling rivalry in the play might have reflected their brotherly relationship. She said she didn’t know. But the script of The Lion In Winter was dedicated to William.

Man, if he had ONLY written The Princess Bride, that would be a career worthy of envy. He came up with so many iconic scenes, characters, and quotes.

“Follow the money.”
“Is it safe?”
“Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”
“As you wish.”

William Goldman has passed away at the age of 87, having lived what seems to have been a wonderful life.

He’s the guy who wrote the book and then adapted it by writing the screenplay for “The Princess Bride”.

He also wrote the screenplay for “All The President’s Men”. The line “Follow the money” from Deep Throat? Yeah, Mark Felt never said that. That line was pure Goldman.

He also wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, A Bridge Too Far, the supremely unsettling Magic, and others.

Won best screenplay Oscars for All The President’s Men and Butch & Sundance.

For the Deep Throat character in the movie, Woodward had to tell Goldman that the quotes from Mark Felt (the FBI #2 man, who was Deep Throat) were composite quotes, that the quotes conveyed the nature and meaning of what Deep Throat had said, but that to protect him as a source, they had to invent his words.

So Goldman invented off of that, and wrote this awesomeness.

Whoops, I posted this in movies. RIP

Ack. I should’ve posted in movies, maybe. I couldn’t figure out where this should go.

@stusser, any way to merge this thread over to the one in movies, where it probably belongs?

Damn! RIP! The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, and as belated media reminds us, it holds up!

Et voila!



RIP. In terms of lesser-seen Goldman, the Great Waldo Pepper, though no masterpiece, is nonetheless pretty much a library of his screenwriting techniques. And The Hot Rock is a case of the screenwriter (Goldman) being perfectly suited to the author whose book he’s adapting (Donald Westlake.) Though it suffers a bit from having sunny Redford play dour Dortmunder.

I am certainty that is the greatest tweet I will read all year

And not just in his fiction. Two lines from ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ I’ve heard many times:

“Nobody knows anything.”
“Screenplays are structure.”

The second one was a revelation to me when I read the book aged 15 or so. I think until then I thought screenplays were mostly about good dialogue.

My favorite contemporary American author, I have read all his books. Goldman was the master of using the printed word to manipulate the reader’s expectations. There are so many examples to choose from. He could lead you down a path and then flipped everything with a sentence, and literally shock you.

I will give you a very wonderful gift now, get a copy of The Color of Light, by Goldman.

I’m intrigued. I looked at the online library and it’s not in ebook form. A search of the Toronto library shows that there’s only one copy of the book in the Reference library and usually those can’t be signed out. Looks like you can get used copies on Amazon if you look hard enough…