William Goldman, Screenwriting Star and Hollywood Skeptic, Dies at 87

Awards

In 2012, at a 25th-anniversary reunion of the “Princess Bride” cast, which included Mandy Patinkin and Robin Wright, Mr. Goldman was asked if he planned a sequel. “I’m desperate to make it and write it and I don’t know how,” he said. “I would love to make it more than anything else I’ve not written.”

Conversely, Mr. Goldman was deeply disappointed with his experience writing “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (played by Mr. Redford) and Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman) about their role in exposing the Watergate scandal. It was a problematic project in which Mr. Goldman butted heads with Mr. Redford, who was the producer as well as the co-star, and who in later years played down Mr. Goldman’s participation.

Mr. Goldman’s screenplay — which included the famous line “Follow the money,” not found in the book — won him his second Academy Award, for best adapted screenplay. But he later wrote: “If you were to ask me ‘What would you change if you had your movie life to live over?’ I’d tell you that I’d have written exactly the screenplays I’ve written. Only I wouldn’t have come near ‘All the President’s Men.’ ”

Mr. Goldman was also a sought-after script doctor, well known for his uncredited work. He was widely believed to have written the script for “Good Will Hunting,” the 1997 film that won Matt Damon and Ben Affleck the Oscar for best original screenplay. He denied it.

“I would love to say that I wrote ‘Good Will Hunting,’ ” Mr. Goldman said at a Writers Guild of America seminar in 2003. “But I did not write it, alas.”

Along with Ms. Burden, he is survived by his daughter, Jenny Goldman, and a grandson. Another daughter, Susanna Goldman, died in 2015. His marriage to Ilene Jones ended in divorce in 1991, after 30 years.

Mr. Goldman was, Joe Queenan wrote in 2009, “the classic case of the creative genius who respects the rules, but has lived his entire life as if the rules do not apply to him.” He expressed his philosophy of writing simply in “Adventures in the Screen Trade”:

“As a writer I believe that all the basic human truths are known. And what we try to do as best we can is come at those truths from our own unique angle, to reilluminate those truths in a hopefully different way.”

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