Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Memoriam: Frank Pierson, Oscar-winning writer and former Academy president

Frank Pierson, Oscar-winning screenwriter and former president of the Academy, died Monday in Los Angeles of natural causes following a short illness. He was 87.

A three-time Academy Award nominee, Pierson won an Oscar for his original screenplay of “Dog Day Afternoon.” His most famous line, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” was celebrated during the 79th Academy Awards season.

He also received nominations for “Cat Ballou” and “Cool Hand Luke.” Pierson’s writing credits include “Presumed Innocent” and “A Star Is Born,” which he also directed.

Pierson was recently working as Writer and Consulting Producer on the Emmy Award-winning drama “Mad Men” and had served the same duties on numerous episodes of “The Good Wife.”

Pierson served as president of the Academy from 2001-2005 and had served as Governor of the Writers Branch for 17 years. He was a continuing member of the Academy’s Board of Governors. He also served as president of the Writers Guild of America, West, for two terms.

Pierson is survived by his wife Helene, his children Michael and Eve and five grandchildren.

There will be a private funeral for the family this week. A public memorial will be planned in the near future.

The family requests contributions are made to STAND UP 2 CANCER.

Statement from Phil Robinson, Academy Governor (Writers Branch):
“Young rock 'n rollers always look to the old bluesmen as models of how to keep their art strong and rebellious into older years. For screenwriters, Frank has been our old blues master for a long time. From great, great movies like ‘Cat Ballou’, ‘Cool Hand Luke’, and ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, to his joining the writing staffs of ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Mad Men’ well past his 80th birthday, he’s always shown us — better than anyone else — how to do it with class, grace, humor, strength, brilliance, generosity and a joyful tenacity.

He was both a great and a good man, I miss him already, and I feel very, very lucky to have known him.”

Statement from manager Susan B. Landau:
“I am deeply saddened to announce the sudden passing of Frank Pierson who was an iconic, titanic figure in the Hollywood community. The Oscar-winning writer was a celebrated director, the former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Writers Guild, a dedicated member of the Directors Guild and the former Artistic Director of AFI. He was fiercely dedicated to his wife and children, his friends, his politics, to the Hollywood community, and to young filmmakers all over the world with whom he was in constant touch. He was thrilled be part of the ‘Mad Men’ community at the time of his passing.”

From TGK Editor James A. Molnar:
“I briefly met Frank Pierson after a speech he gave in Chautauqua, New York, at the Chautauqua Institution. He was smart and kind. His speech focused on Hollywood and filmmaking and how the industry should get back to making better, smarter movies. I was honored to get my picture taken with him and a fellow intern at the Institution.”

The Gold Knight team would like to express our thoughts in sympathy to family and friends of Frank Pierson. May he rest in peace.
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