Frank Pierson, Director/Writer/Producer and AMPAS President, Dies at 87

Pierson had a hand in everything from "Have Gun, Will Travel" to "A Star Is Born" and "Mad Men"

Screenwriter and director Frank Pierson, who won an Oscar for writing the 1975 film "Dog Day Afternoon," has died at the age of 87 in Los Angeles of natural causes following a brief illness, his family said Monday.

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Born May 12, 1925 in Chappaqua, New York, Pierson's earliest work included writing and directing on the classic television series "Have Gun, Will Travel" and "Route 66."

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He later branched out into film, writing or co-writing such notable films as "Cool Hand Luke," "Cat Ballou" and "Dog Day Afternoon."

He also directed and contributed to the screenplay of "A Star Is Born," later writing a controversial article for New West magazine about the in-fighting he experienced with the movie's star, Barbra Streisand and its producer, Jon Peters.

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Pierson twice served as president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and was president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences from 2001 to 2005.

In later years, Pierson would re-focus on television. His direction for the 2001 TV movie "Conspiracy" earned him a Directors' Guild Award, ad well as Peabody and BAFTA awards.

Most recently, Pierson served as consulting producer on the CBS drama "The Good Wife" and AMC's "Mad Men." He co-wrote an episode of the latter, "Signal 30," with series creator Matthew Weiner.

At the time of his death, he was beginning the final year of his three-year term as a representative of the Writers Branch on the Academy's Board of Governors. His spot on the board will have to be filled.

In remembering Pierson, fellow Writers Branch governor Phil Robinson likened him to an "old blues master" who schooled younger artists with his example.

"Young rock 'n rollers always look to the old bluesmen as models of how to keep their art strong and rebellious into older years," Robinson said in a statement. "For screenwriters, Frank has been our old blues master for a long time.  From great, great movies like 'Cat Ballou,' 'Cool Hand Luke' and 'Dog Day Afternoon', to his joining the writing staffs of 'The Good Wife' and 'Mad Men' well past his 80th birthday, he's always shown us – better than anyone else – how to do it with class, grace, humor, strength, brilliance, generosity, and a joyful tenacity.

"He was both a great and a good man, I miss him already, and I feel very, very lucky to have known him," Robinson added.

Pierson is survived by his wife Helene, his children Michael and Eve and five grandchildren.

There will be a private funeral for the family this week. A public memorial will be planned in the near future.

The family requests contributions are made to STAND UP 2 CANCER.