Within the late Nineteen Seventies, Bo Goldman was researching a script about Melvin Dummar, the unassuming Utah manufacturing unit employee, gasoline station proprietor and former “Milkman of the Month” who was named as a $156m beneficiary in a will supposedly written by Howard Hughes however later efficiently contested in courtroom. Slowly, a realisation dawned on the screenwriter: “This man is a failure similar to I’m.”
It appeared an uncommon conclusion to achieve. In any case, Goldman had written the e book and lyrics for a Broadway musical, First Impressions, primarily based on Delight and Prejudice, earlier than he was 30, and received his first greatest screenplay Oscar (shared with Lawrence Hauben) for adapting One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Ken Kesey’s novel set in a psychiatric establishment, by the point he was 45.
A second Oscar later got here his approach for Melvin and Howard (1980), his humane and warmly humorous script about Dummar, lovingly directed by Jonathan Demme.
However Goldman, who has died aged 90, was haunted on the time by his incapability to promote one in every of his earliest scripts, Shoot the Moon, or to observe up that 1959 Broadway debut, and by the years he spent in poverty and debt, struggling to supply for his spouse and their six kids. “I can’t let you know what it does to a person,” he mentioned in 1982. “You are feeling terrible. I revered my spouse a lot, however felt awful about myself.”
Hollywood was impressed by Shoot the Moon, the story of a brutal marital break-up that he wrote within the early Nineteen Seventies, however nobody needed to make it. The writing was sturdy sufficient to earn him an $8,000 fee from the director Miloš Forman to re-write Hauben’s script for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Considered one of Goldman’s first ideas – that the iconoclastic affected person McMurphy, performed by Jack Nicholson, ought to kiss his admitting officers on the hospital – helped win him the job.
He additionally scripted the Bette Midler car The Rose (1979), impressed by the lifetime of Janis Joplin, however turned down affords to jot down Kramer vs Kramer and Bizarre Individuals, each future greatest image Oscar winners, as a result of the terrain felt too just like his unproduced script, which he nonetheless hoped could be filmed finally.
It lastly was. The British filmmaker Alan Parker directed Shoot the Moon in 1982, coaxing highly effective work from Albert Finney and Diane Keaton because the warring couple, and touchingly pure performances from the 4 kids solid as their daughters.
The important response was optimistic. Even Pauline Kael, no fan of Parker’s, mentioned she was “a bit of afraid to say how good I feel [the film] is” and praised the script’s “theatrical richness.” Goldman was dissatisfied nonetheless by its box-office failure.
After his third Oscar nomination, for Scent of a Girl (1992), he mentioned: “I’m all the time shocked when something good occurs to me.” That movie starred Al Pacino as a blind, cantankerous ex-army officer who cuts unfastened when he’s assigned a prep-school pupil (Chris O’Donnell) as his companion for Thanksgiving weekend.
Goldman primarily based Pacino’s character on a mixture of his father, one in every of his brothers and a sergeant beneath whom he had served. Pacino received an Oscar; on that event, the author didn’t.
He was born Robert Spencer Goldman in New York Metropolis. It was at Princeton that he modified his identify to “Bo”; the faculty newspaper, The Each day Princetonian, misprinted his byline, and it caught.
His mom was Lillian Levy, a millinery mannequin, his father, Julian Goodman, a someday Broadway producer and the proprietor of a sequence of greater than 70 malls, which went into receivership through the Melancholy shortly earlier than Bo was born. That dramatic fall knowledgeable and even overshadowed the remainder of Bo’s life, with its often incongruous juxtapositions. He grew up, for example, in a spacious, rent-controlled Park Avenue residence but the household was normally penniless. His father would leaf by means of scrapbooks from his glory days, even making annual visits to the stables in Chantilly the place he saved his prize-winning race-horses.
Although this precarious financial state of affairs was recognized to Bo all through his youth, it was not till a lot later that he found his father had one other estranged household, and that his mother and father had by no means married.
He was educated on the Dalton faculty and Phillips Exeter academy previous to Princeton. There he wrote lyrics for the faculty’s Triangle Present and developed an enthusiasm for writing for the stage. He was within the US military for a number of years, then made inroads into the tv trade, beginning within the CBS postroom earlier than progressing to script modifying and producing on reveals resembling Playhouse 90.
Although First Impressions, which starred Farley Granger, was poorly obtained, he devoted a lot of the Sixties to writing a civil struggle musical, Hurrah Boys, Hurrah, which was by no means staged. He took odds and ends of TV work, however was suffering from ideas of his father’s ignominies, and bruised by his personal. “The one factor which saved me going was my spouse and the youngsters who by no means cared about my success or lack of it,” he mentioned. “They solely cared as a result of it was inflicting me ache.”
Across the time Shoot the Moon was launched, his spouse, Mab (nee Ashforth), whom he had met at Princeton and married in 1954, and who supported the household financially by means of endeavours resembling her fish and bread store, Loaves and Fishes, mirrored on the disparity between the dangerous occasions and the great: “Individuals have been so contemptuous of us … it’s outstanding how success has remodeled us into acceptable individuals.”
Goldman turned a sought-after script physician, working uncredited on Forman’s Ragtime (1981), Demme’s Swing Shift, the coming-of-age comedy The Flamingo Child (each 1984), Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990) and the Arthurian journey First Knight (1995).
Credited screenplays embrace Little Nikita (1988), an espionage thriller with River Phoenix and Sidney Poitier, and Meet Joe Black (1998), starring Brad Pitt as the beautiful personification of dying. Goldman additionally shared a narrative credit score with Beatty on the interval comedy-drama Guidelines Don’t Apply (2016). This was one other Howard Hughes-related venture, with Beatty enjoying the reclusive billionaire.
Although Goldman got here shut a number of occasions, his enduring dream of directing was by no means realised. “I consider myself as a filmmaker,” he mentioned. “I’m a author solely as a result of that’s what they pay me to do.”
Mab died in 2017. He’s survived by 5 of his kids, Mia, Amy, Diana, Serena and Justin. A sixth youngster, Jesse, died in 1981.