"You can never trust what you read." -- William Goldman
William Goldman (born August 12, 1931) is an America novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He lives in New York City.
Goldman has won two Academy Awards: an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for All the President's Men. He has also won two Edgar Awards, from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay: for Harper in 1967, and for Magic (adapted from his own 1976 novel) in 1979.
"As far as the filmmaking process is concerned, stars are essentially worthless - and absolutely essential.""Being a screenwriter is not enough for a full creative life.""But this is life on earth, you can't have everything.""Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.""Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.""Never argue with your wife about hostility when she's a certified Freudian.""Nobody knows anything.""One way an author dies a little each day is when his books go out of print.""The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.""There is one crucial rule that must be followed in all creative meetings. Never speak first. At least at the start, your job is to shut up.""We are men of action, lies do not become us.""Yes, I am a failed playwright. I had three shows on Broadway by the time I was 30. They all flopped, and I fled."
Goldman grew up in a Jewish family in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois. His brother was James Goldman, a playwright and screenwriter who died in 1998. William Goldman obtained a BA degree at Oberlin College in 1952 and a MA degree at Columbia University in 1956.
He was married to Ilene Jones until their divorce in 1991. The couple has two daughters.
According to his memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade, Goldman began writing when he took a creative writing course in college. He did not originally intend to become a screenwriter. His main interests were poetry, short stories, and novels. William Goldman published five novels and had three plays produced on Broadway before he began to write screenplays. He wrote mostly serious literary works until the death of his first agent, when he started writing thrillers, the first of which was Marathon Man.
Goldman researched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for eight years and used Harry Longbaugh (a variant spelling of the Sundance Kid's real name) as his pseudonym for No Way to Treat a Lady. After deciding he did not want to write a cowboy novel, he turned the story into his first original screenplay and sold it for a record $400,000. He went on to use several of his novels as the foundation for his screenplays, such as The Princess Bride.
Among the many other popular scripts written by Goldman are The Stepford Wives (1975), Marathon Man (based on his novel) (1976); A Bridge Too Far (1977); Misery (1990); Chaplin (1992); Maverick (1994) and Absolute Power (1997). Goldman wrote the famous line "Follow the money" for the screenplay of All the President's Men; while the line is often attributed to Deep Throat, it is not found in Bob Woodward’s notes nor in Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book or articles.
One of Goldman's most famous unproduced scripts is a pirate adventure called The Sea Kings. The Sea Kings reportedly was to star Sean Connery and Roger Moore as pirates Blackbeard and Bonnet, but the budget was too high and the project was scrapped.
In the 1980s he wrote a series of memoirs looking at his professional life on Broadway and in Hollywood. In one of these he famously sized up the entertainment industry by concluding: "Nobody knows anything." His favorite writers are Irwin Shaw, Ingmar Bergman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ross Macdonald, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Maugham, and Cervantes.
Simon Morgenstern is both a pseudonym and a narrative device invented by Goldman to add another layer to his novel The Princess Bride. He presents his novel as being an abridged version of a work by the fictional Morgenstern, an author from the equally fictional country of Florin. The name is almost certainly a reference to Johann Carl Simon Morgenstern who coined the term Bildungsroman describing the genre of story.
The details of Goldman's life given in the introduction and commentary for The Princess Bride are also largely fictional. For instance, he says that his wife is a psychiatrist and that he was inspired to abridge Morgenstern's The Princess Bride for his only child, a son. (The Princess Bride actually originated as a bedtime story for Goldman's two daughters.) He not only treats Morgenstern and the countries of Florin and Guilder as real, but even claims that his own father was Florinese and had immigrated to America.
At one point in The Princess Bride, Goldman's commentary indicates that he had wanted to add a passage elaborating a scene skipped over by Morgenstern. He explains that his editors would not allow him to take such liberties with the "original" text, and encourages readers to write to his publisher to request a copy of this scene. Both the original publisher and its successor have responded to such requests with letters describing their supposed legal problems with the Morgenstern estate.
In the 15th and 25th Anniversary Edition of The Princess Bride, Goldman claimed that he wanted to adapt the sequel written by Morgenstern, Buttercup's Baby, but he was unable to do so because Morgenstern's estate wanted Stephen King to do the abridgment instead. He also continued the fictional details of his own life, claiming that his psychiatrist wife had divorced him, and his son had grown to have a son of his own.
Goldman also wrote The Silent Gondoliers under the Morgenstern name.