Audrey Wells, screenwriter of the racial drama The Hate U Give, has died at age 58. Wells passed away yesterday after a long and private battle with cancer. Her death was announced by her agency, UTA.
Her latest film, from 20th Century Fox, is directed by George Tillman Jr and stars Amandla Stenberg. The adaptation of Angie Thomas’s bestselling novel opened in select theaters today and goes wide October 19.
A prolific writer and director, Wells was a lifelong feminist whose creative voice frequently focused on strong female characters. That creative influence guided the roles in films she wrote and directed, including 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun and 1999’s Guinevere, to the movies she wrote, including Hate U Give and 2004’s Shall We Dance, 2000’s The Kid and her 1996 scribe debut The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Her animated movie Over the Moon is currently in production.
Born in San Francisco, Wells’ early career included work as a disc jockey at jazz station KJAZ-FM in San Francisco and in public radio in remote bush stations in the Alaskan arctic, which she said gave her something to write about when she got to film school. She earned a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley and an MFA from UCLA.
She is survived by her daughter, Tatiana; and her husband, Brian Larky.
“Over the last five and half years, Audrey fought valiantly against her illness and she died surrounded by love,” said Larky. “Even during her fight, she never stopped living, working or traveling, and she never lost her joy, wonder and optimism. She was, simply, the most incredible wife and partner imaginable, and she knew always that she was loved by Tatiana, me, and the friends who were her chosen family. She said just recently, ‘We’re so lucky, honey. We got to live a love story. Who gets to do that?’ We will carry her forward with us forever—as a mother, as a wife, as an artist and creator, and as a friend. She was irreplaceable.”
UTA co-president David Kramer said Wells was “a beloved client and, far more importantly, a wonderful friend. It was impossible not to fall in love with her and the passion that brought her stories to life. The strong, independent female characters she shaped resonate today more than ever and will be a part of her legacy always. We will miss her amazing, spirit, creativity and the love she gave us. She was truly special.”
Twentieth Century Fox Film also issued a statement.
“We are simply heartbroken. Audrey’s was a voice of empowerment and courage, and her words will live on through the strong, determined female characters she brought to life. Our thoughts are with Brian, Tatiana, and all of Audrey’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Wells’s favorite nonprofits, The Feminist Majority Foundation, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood.