Frank Pierson, Hollywood leader was 87

frank-pierson-obit.jpgFrank Pierson served at times as president of both the Writers Guild, West, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. He rose in Hollywood as a screenwriter and director. He got his start on the TV series' "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Naked City" and "Route 66." He won the best screenplay Oscar in 1976 for "Dog Day Afternoon."


Gentlemanly yet ornery, meticulous yet creative, Pierson compiled a remarkable writing resume, starting in the 1950s with television shows like "Have Gun – Will Travel" and "Playhouse 90," followed by five decades of films like "Cat Ballou" (screenplay by Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson), "Dog Day Afternoon" (screenplay by Frank Pierson), "A Star Is Born" (screenplay by Joan Didion & John Gregory Dunne and Frank Pierson), "In Country" (screenplay by Frank Pierson and Cynthia Cidre), and "Presumed Innocent" (screenplay by Frank Pierson and Alan J. Pakula). In his later years he worked for HBO as a consulting producer on "Mad Men."

He also wrote some of the most iconic quotes in motion picture history, as the WGA itself pointed out: “Odds are, all of you know the famous line he came up with while writing 1967’s "Cool Hand Luke" (screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson): 'What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.' The line was not in Pearce’s original novel. (“The phrase just sort of appeared on the page. I looked at it and thought, ‘Now that’s interesting.’” Pierson to the WGA described his process this way: “Sit down at 10 o’clock in the morning and write anything that comes into my head until 12. One of the few things I’ve discovered about writing is to form a habit that becomes an addiction so that if you don’t put something down on paper every day, you get really mean and awful with withdrawal symptoms, and your wife and your dog and your kids are going to kick your ass until you get back to it because they can’t bear you in that state of mind.”

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