Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Frank Pierson Dies at 87


Frank Pierson at a 30th anniversary screening of Dog Day Afternoon in 2005. Image courtesy of AMPAS.

Known for Cool Hand Luke, Dog Day Afternoon and Cat Ballou, Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson died today in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 87.

Born in Chappaqua, New York, Pierson worked in advertising when he first moved to Los Angeles in 1958 after graduating from Harvard. He got his first break as a script editor for Have Gun, Will Travel and other television shows, but not long after broke into the movies with Cat Ballou.

Winning the Oscar for his original screenplay Dog Day Afternoon, and nominated for two others, Pierson wrote 20 screenplays, directed more than 15 films and, most recently, worked on Mad Men and The Good Wife. He also wrote a piece for New York and New West magazines about his struggles with directing Barbra Streisand and Jon Peters in A Star is Born, for which he also wrote the screenplay.

Pierson was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from 2001 – 2005 and had served as Governor of the Writers Branch for 17 years. In November 2005, AMPAS presented the 30th anniversary of Dog Day Afternoon with a panel discussion featuring Pierson, producer Martin Elfand, editor Dede Allen and Dick Shepherd, who oversaw production for the film at Warner Bros.

Pierson is survived by his wife Helene, two children and five grandchildren. The family requests that any contributions be made to Stand Up 2 Cancer.

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