William Richert, the maverick writer-director behind the conspiracy thriller starring Jeff Bridges Winter Kills and A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, which gave River Phoenix its first leading role, has passed away. He was 79.
Richert died Tuesday at his home in Portland, Oregon, his wife Gretchen said News Kidda. She wouldn’t reveal the cause of death, but said he chose to use Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.
Richert’s resume also included co-writing The lucky whore (1975), starring Lynn Redgrave as the famous Mrs. Xaviera Hollander, and a few Ivan Passer-directed films: Law and disorder (1974), starring Carroll O’Connor and Ernest Borgnine, and Crime and passion (1976), starring Omar Sharif and Karen Black.
A black comedy about the mystery surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Winter Kills (1979) with Bridges fronting an all-star cast including John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor, Eli Wallach, Toshiro Mifune, Dorothy Malone, and Anthony Perkins.
When budget problems forced the $6 million Winter Kills to cease production and go out of business within weeks of completion, Richert . wrote and directed The American Success Company and used funds from it to complete the film two years later.
The American Success Companymade in Germany and also starring Bridges, was released in 1980.
When he was 19, Richert wrote a novel, Won’t you even kiss me goodbye?which was published in 1966. He adapted his book for the 60s coming-of-age drama A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988).
Richert then portrayed Bob Pigeon, who mentored a gang of street kids and con men who live in an abandoned apartment building, alongside Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in Gus Van Sant’s My own private Idaho (1991).
He also appeared on screen in Law and disorder and in Joel Schumacher’s The client (1994).
Born in Florida in 1942, Richert had a nomadic childhood, attending some 20 high schools as his parents took him and his siblings across the country.
He came to Hollywood in the early ’60s and landed a job as a press agent for ABC’s The New Steve Allen Showthen worked on documentaries about the daughters of presidents (it was never released), roller derby (1970) Derby) and two young lovers studying at the American Ballet School (1972) First position).
In front of Winter KillsRichert edited a 1974 novel by Richard Condon, also the author of: The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi’s Honor. Leonard J. Goldberg and Robert Sterling, wealthy marijuana dealers, were executive producers of the indie film, which was filmed primarily at MGM.
“Part of the book was about how this president was groomed by his father to take office, how deals were made, and the crooked things that were going on,” Richert said in the 2003 documentary. Who killed winter murders. “It said a lot about powerful people in code. … It almost had to be financed by gangsters, by outsiders, and it was.”
A month after the film — which closed three times — opened, Goldberg was found handcuffed and shot to death in his Manhattan apartment by “someone to whom he owed money,” Richert said in the document. Years later, Sterling was sentenced to 40 years in prison for cannabis smuggling.
In her New York Times review Janet Maslin wrote that: Winter Kills “It’s not really a comedy, but it’s funny. And it’s not really serious, but it takes the seriousness of the Kennedy assassination. That’s why other ads for the movie have compared it to dr. Strangelove and M*A*S*H.
“This isn’t social satire — it’s more of a spring fever movie. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fast-paced, clever and entertaining, bursting with quirky vitality.”
In 1980, Richert and former studio executive Claire Townsend launched Invisible Studio, which was re-released The American Success Story and a re-edited version of Winter Kills.
Richert also served as a writer, director and actor for The Face of Alexandre Dumas: The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and starred in and directed an episode of the 1995 ABC series the marshalstarring Jeff Fahey.
Richert claimed that the Aaron Sorkin-written The US President was largely based on a version he had written, but the WGA and a court disagreed. He also sued the WGA and DGA for mismanagement of funds collected from foreign income.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his son Nick and a granddaughter.