William Hjortsberg, screenwriter of the 1985 Tom Cruise fantasy film Legend and 1987 Mickey Rourke devilish noir Angel Heart, died last month of pancreatic cancer at age 76. The death was reported by The Livingston Enterprise, newspaper of Hjortsberg’s hometown Livingston, Montana.
Hjortsberg, born in New York, was a novelist with four books to his credit when his Falling Angel was published in 1978. He’d later adapt the tale into Angel Heart, a high-profile demonic thriller starring Robert De Niro as Louis Cyphre (say it fast), the blazing hot Rourke and The Cosby Show‘s Lisa Bonet. The Rourke-Bonet sex scene drew considerable attention – and, legend has it, the ire of Bonet’s TV boss Bill Cosby.
The year before Angel Heart, Hjortsberg wrote the screenplay for Legend, Ridley Scott’s fantasy epic starring Cruise, Tim Curry and Mia Sara. Previously, he’d penned 1977’s Thunder and Lightning, a comedy starring David Carradine and Kate Jackson, and 1980 TV-movie The Georgia Peaches starring singer Tanya Tucker.
Angel Heart more or less ended Hjortsberg’s Hollywood streak, with the writer then focusing on books. His latest was 2012’s Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan.
According to Hjortsberg’s hometown paper, he’s survived by his third wife Janie Camp, and two children, Lorca and Max.