UPDATED with statement from Wash Westmoreland: Richard Glatzer, who wrote and directed Still Alice with his husband Wash Westmoreland, died Tuesday in Los Angeles of complications from ALS. He was 63 and had been hospitalized for the past three weeks. Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar last month for her role in the Sony Pictures Classics drama, about a linguistics professor who struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Less than two weeks before the Academy Awards, Glatzer and Westmoreland sold a pitch to Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8.
“I am devastated,” Westmoreland said in a statement today. “Rich was my soul mate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Seeing him battle ALS for four years with such grace and courage inspired me and all who knew him. In this dark time, I take some consolation in the fact that he got to see Still Alice go out into the world. He put his heart and soul into that film, and the fact that it touched so many people was a constant joy to him.
“Thank you to everyone for this huge outpouring of love. Richard was a unique guy — opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous and so so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short 20 years we had together. I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him, he will always be alive.”
Glatzer and Westmoreland also wrote and directed The Last Of Robin Hood (2013) and 2006’s Quinceañera, which won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance that year and later scored a Spirit Award and Humanitas Prize. The pair also directed the 2001 pic The Fluffer, which Westmoreland wrote. The duo signed with WME in November as the Oscar race was heating up.
Sony Classics acquired Still Alice after its Toronto premiere and two weeks later slated it for an Oscar-qualifying run in December, followed by a wider release in January. SPC Co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard said of Glatzer today, “A profound loss for all of us who worked with him and know him as an exceptional human being.”
The quick rollout for Still Alice immediately put Moore into the Best Actress race — and she began racking up awards right away. In a pre-Oscars interview with Deadline’s Pete Hammond, Moore said of the filmmakers: “When I met Rich and Wash and we first spoke about this, Richard was having difficulty speaking. They thought he had a virus and he was on some medication. By the time we were ready and we had our money in the slot they said, ‘We have some urgency because Richard has ALS.’
“By the time we got to set, Richard was more severe than we anticipated. He really lost function from the upper half of his body, yet he directed the movie. He and Wash are partners. They are married. Richard directed me with an iPad. They were both dealing with his disease. What happened is that basically what we were depicting in the film is what they were going through in real life as a couple.”
Asked what it was like taking direction via iPad, Moore said: “Surprisingly easy. With Richard, his language is gone in terms of his verbalization, but his communication is not. The person who was communicating was essentially Richard; oddly, it kind of goes away. Richard was so very, very pleasant in his eyes and in the way he communicated with me that I didn’t feel it after awhile.”
Born on January 28, 1952, in Queens, Glatzer took charge of the University of Virginia film department while working on his Ph.D. in English. While there, he forged a friendship with Frank Capra that was instrumental in a mid-1970s revival of interest in the legendary filmmaker’s work. Glatzer moved west in the early 1980s and landed a job on the daytime TV show Divorce Court. He drew upon his experience working on that show for his first feature, the 1993 indie Grief, which Glatzer wrote and directed. He also worked on such reality TV shows as Road Rules, The Osbournes and America’s Next Top Model.
He also was an HIV/AIDS activist, organizing fundraisers in Los Angeles in the early 1990s as well as running the underground club Sit-and-Spin.