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Frank Pierson Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 12 May 1925Chappaqua, New York, USA
Date of Death 22 July 2012Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameFrank Romer Pierson
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Frank Pierson was born on May 12, 1925 in Chappaqua, New York, USA as Frank Romer Pierson. He was a producer and writer, known for Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Presumed Innocent (1990). He was married to Helene Szamet, Dori Derfner and Polly Stokes. He died on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Spouse (3)

Helene Szamet (24 June 1990 - 22 July 2012) (his death) (2 children)
Dori Derfner (7 December 1978 - ?) (divorced)
Polly Stokes (September 1948 - ?) (divorced)

Trivia (14)

(1981-1983) President of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAw)
(1993-1995) President of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAw)
President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (August 2001 - August 2005).
After starting out in advertising, he saved enough money to quit for several months while he wrote and tried to sell his scripts. Just as he was beginning to re-interview with ad agencies to resume his career, one of his stories sold. He has been a professional screenwriter since.
Member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Writers Branch) [-2006 & 2007-].
Famously authored a first-person account, published in both New York and New West magazines before the film's release, of the endless trials and tribulations of directing Barbra Streisand. He portrayed her as egocentric, manipulative and a total control freak. Needless to say, they never worked together again.
Served with US Army.
Was correspondent for Time and Life magazines.
Pierson made his feature directorial debut with The Looking Glass War (1969) in 1970.
Pierson was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award.
A Harvard graduate with a degree in cultural anthropology, he was also a revered but demanding mentor, especially in his role as one of the founding writers at Robert Redford 's Sundance Screenwriters Lab in the 1980s.
Pierson's mother, Louise Randall Pierson, wrote a best-selling book based on his family's life, "Roughly Speaking", which was made into a movie in 1945 (Roughly Speaking (1945)). The story includes the tales of three sons who enlist to fight in World War II, one of who was modeled after Pierson, who served in the Pacific.
His most famous line of scripted dialog, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate", delivered by prison warden Strother Martin to inmate Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967), has been ranked by The American Film Institute as the 11th-best movie quote of all time.
He sold his first script to the half-hour anthology series Goodyear Playhouse (1951), which wasn't aired until 1959 (Goodyear Theatre: Point of Impact (1959)). Soon after he was writing and directing full-time for film and TV, beginning with Have Gun - Will Travel (1957), on which he also produced 61 episodes.

Personal Quotes (4)

A film set, as Orson Welles was first to say, is the most wonderful electric train a boy could ever be given. What he failed to add was that, most of the time, it doesn't work.
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.
[on the famous "What we have is a failure to communicate" line from Cool Hand Luke (1967)] The phrase just sort of appeared on the page. I looked at it and thought, "Now that's interesting". Then I thought, "These words are going to be spoken by an actor who is playing a real redneck character who probably never went beyond high school", and it has a faintly academic feel to it, that line. I thought, "People are going to question it".
[on writing Cat Ballou (1965)] That was the beginning of all of our careers . . . I was the 11th writer on that, but they'd all been trying to do it straight, like a Gene Autry singing movie. Walter Newman, who was the writer on it before me, had the inspiration to do it as a comedy, but he was fed up with the whole damn thing, so he sketched it as a comedy. Then he quit, and that was my opportunity to come in and pick up where Walter left off. He just gave me such a gift because he showed how to do it as a comedy, and all I had to do was follow in his footsteps. It was extraordinary.

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