Filmmaker Richard Glatzer, best known for co-writing and co-directing Still Alice, has died from complications related to ALS. He was 63.
Before he started working in the entertainment industry, Glatzer earned a PhD in English from the University Of Virginia, where—according to Variety—he befriended legendary It’s A Wonderful Life director Frank Capra, who eventually inspired him to go to Los Angeles and start working in television. Once there, he wrote and produced shows Divorce Court, Road Rules, and America’s Next Top Model. Though they weren’t exactly the sort of shows one would normally associate with a guy who has a doctorate in anything, his experience on reality shows drove him to make his first feature film, Grief, which was about a writer for a bad TV show whose partner dies.
In the early ‘90s, Glatzer met his future husband, Wash Westmoreland. They would go on to make several films together, including 2001’s The Fluffer (an examination of the gay porn industry), a 2008 made-for-TV movie about Pedro Zamora (an AIDS activist who appeared on MTV’s The Real World), and the indie hit Quinceañera. Their most impactful cinematic collaboration, however, came just last year with the Oscar-nominated Still Alice. The film stars Julianne Moore as a linguistics professor who finds out she has Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s clear that Glatzer’s ALS diagnosis helped him forge a strong connection to Moore’s character in the film and the book it was based on.
Though his medical condition was getting increasingly worse during production—The Hollywood Reporter notes that he could only “speak” by tapping his toe on an iPad by the end—Westmoreland says that Glatzer didn’t let it stop him from telling the story he wanted to tell. According to Variety, Still Alice‘s press kit included the following quote from Westmoreland: “[Glatzer] was on set every day, directing the movie, despite incredible physical difficulties. This silently infused the whole production with a sense of deeper purpose. In essence, this was what the movie was about.”