Screenwriter Kurt Luedtke, known for his Oscar-winning adapted screenplay Out of Africa, died on Sunday. He was 80. The Detroit Free Press reported that the Luedtke, who worked at the newspaper during the 1960s and ’70s, passed away after a long illness in a Michigan hospital.
Luedtke, a Michigan native, first worked in journalism before turning his attention to Hollywood in the 1980s with screenwriting credits that include Absence of Malice and Random Hearts. After graduating from Brown University, the reporter-turned-screenwriter pursued a law degree at the University of Michigan and took on journalism courses at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
After Medill, Luedtke went on to report for the Miami Herald as an intern. In 1965, Luedtke moved to the Free Press as a general reporter. During his time at the paper, he reported a number of stories including the Free Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Detroit riots in 1968.
After rising up the ranks at the Free Press, Luedtke left the Michigan newspaper in 1978 and pivoted towards film work. His first Hollywood screenplay was Absence of Malice, the Paul Newman- and Sally Field-led drama directed by Sydney Pollack about a prosecutor’s plans to get back at a local paper for a seemingly false story.
His sophomore Hollywood project, Out of Africa, brought him the Oscar statuette in 1986. The screenwriter’s second venture with Pollack starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford as lovers in 20th century colonial Kenya. Out of Africa won a total of seven Academy Awards in 1986, including the Best Picture prize.
Luedtke’s final writing project, once again with Pollack, was the Harrison Ford-starrer Random Hearts. The 1999 film features Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas as a man and woman whose love lives are more intertwined that they’d like.
Apart from his writing credits, Luedtke appeared as himself in Naked Hollywood, a documentary about Pollack’s 1968 film, and a documentary short for Absence of Malice.
He is survived by his wife Eleanor.
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