Bo Goldman, Oscar-Winning Cowriter of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Dies at 90

The screenwriter won a second Oscar for 1981’s “Melvin and Howard” and was nominated again for 1993’s “Scent of a Woman”

Bo Goldman
Bo Goldman accepts his Oscar for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (AMPAS/YouTube)

Veteran screenwriter Bo Goldman, who won Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Jonathan Demme’s “Melvin and Howard,” died Tuesday at the age of 90, his son-in-law, director Todd Field told The New York Times on Wednesday.

Goldman landed the job of adapting Ken Kesey’s book (along with Lawrence Hauben) after his script for “Shoot the Moon” impressed “Cuckoo’s Nest” director Miloš Forman.

Danny DeVito, who had a small role in “Cuckoo’s Nest,” told TheWrap, “Working with Bo was a dream. It was an honor knowing him.”

After winning a second Oscar for “Melvin and Howard,” he became one of the few screenwriters — along with Francis Ford Coppola and Billy Wilder — to take home Academy Awards for both original and adapted screenplay. He was nominated a third time for his script for Martin Brest’s “Scent of a Woman.”

During his long career, he also won New York Film Critics Award, two Writers Guild Awards and three Golden Globes. He was the recipient of the WGA’s lifetime achievement award The Laurel in 1998.

“The great Bo Goldman. He’s the pre-eminent screenwriter — in my mind as good as it gets,” “Forrest Gump” screenwriter Eric Roth told the NY Times in 1998. “He has the most varied and intelligent credits, from ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ to ‘Shoot the Moon,’ the best divorce movie ever made, to ‘Scent of a Woman,’ to the great satire ‘Melvin and Howard.’ He rarely makes mistakes, and he manages to maintain a distinctive American voice.”

For Vulture’s 2017 list of the 100 Best Screenwriters, on which Goldman ranked 28th, Roth (who was ranked 29th), said, “The man whose work made the biggest impression on me, because of his audacious originality, his understanding of social mores, his ironic sense of humor, and his outright anger at being human, and all with his soft spoken grace and eloquent simplicity is Bo Goldman… His words were silk, never wasted or misplaced, and he would throw away what others would consider glorious and did it all without a moment’s fanfare.”

Goldman’s last movie was Warren Beatty’s 2016 “Rules Don’t Apply,” on which he shared a “story by” credit with Beatty. He had earlier done an uncredited revision on Beatty’s 1990 comic book movie “Dick Tracy.”

He also co-wrote the script for the 1979 Bette Midler vehicle “The Rose,” 1988’s “Little Nikita,” 1996’s “City Hall,” and 1998’s “Meet Joe Black.”

Martin Brest, who worked with “Scent of a Woman” and “Meet Joe Black,” told the Times on Wednesday, “People call him the screenwriter’s screenwriter. I called him the man with the X-ray ears, because he had a pitch-perfect recall of the nuances of a comment that someone made to someone 50 years prior — he could reproduce the tone, and the reason he remembered it is because the tone told the whole story.”

“Tár” director Field has been married to Goldman’s daughter Serena Rathbun since 1986.