Hollywood legend Alvin Sargent, one of the film industry’s most reliable screenwriters for more than 50 years, died of natural causes inside his Seattle home on Thursday. He was 92.
Sargent’s friend, producer Pam Williams (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), broke the news of his death three days ago, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which called Sargent ‘the master of the adapted screenplay.’
In recent years, he was best known for writing for the Spider-Man film franchise, including the acclaimed ‘Spider-Man 2’ (2004), ‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007) and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ (2012).
But Sargent’s star began burning brightly in the late 1970s when he was thrice nominated for Academy Awards, taking home two golden statues for screenplays he wrote for the Holocaust period film ‘Julia’ (1977) and the acclaimed drama ‘Ordinary People’ (1980), an adaptation of Judith Guest’s 1976 novel about a family whose revered eldest son drowned in a boating accident.
Sargent’s screenplay for ‘Paper Moon’ (1973) also earned a nomination from the Academy.
Born Alvin Supowitz on April 27, 1927, Sargent came from humble beginnings in Philadelphia during the Depression era. His father, Isaac Supowitz, committed suicide at the age of 43 during Alvin’s childhood.
Sargent never finished high school, instead opting to join the Navy where he served three years towards the end of World War II to earn his high school diploma.
‘It wasn’t about heroism. It was really about getting out of school with a diploma, which is exactly what I did,’ Sargent told the Writer’s Guild Foundation in 2016.
During his time in the Navy, Sargent learned to type Morse code.
‘My one passion was typing, not writing,’ he said with a laugh. ‘I used to practice typing. And I started writing dialogue, writing people talking to each other … It never occurred to me to be a screenwriter, or any kind of a writer, or anything actually, I never had a plan. I never really had a dream. Things just sort of came to me.’
His mother moved to California to be closer to her sister during the war and Sargent followed her after he was discharged from the military.
He attended college at UCLA because he couldn’t get into USC and got a job delivering clothes to Hollywood insiders living in the elite hills of southern California.
He dreamed of being an actor, but settled for being one of the industry’s go-to screenwriters for three decades.
Sargent had three children with his first wife, stage actress Joan Creears, aka Joan Camden, before meeting and falling in love with film producer Laura Ziskin during the 1980s, according to the New York Times.
He and Ziskin married in 2010 a year before she died. The duo together created classics like ‘What About Bob?’ (1991), ‘Hero’ (1992) and the Spider-Man sequels starring Tobey Maguire in the early 2000s.
‘Spider-Man 2’ still ranks as the highest rated live action film in the Spider-Man franchise on Rotten Tomatoes with a ‘Certified Fresh’ tomato score of 93 percent from critics.
Sargent’s 43 film and TV writing credits also include underrated classics like ‘The Sterile Cuckoo,’ (1969) and ‘Bobby Deerfield’ (1977).