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Bruce Jay Friedman, Oscar-Nominated ‘Splash’ Screenwriter, Dies at 90

Friedman was also a novelist and playwright

Bruce Jay Friedman, novelist and screenwriter who earned an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of the Tom Hanks film “Splash,” died Wednesday at the age of 90, his son told The New York Times. The cause of death is not yet known.

Born and raised in New York City, Friedman got his start in writing through men’s magazines in the 1950s before releasing his first novel, “Stern,” in 1962. His short story “A Change of Plan” was adapted by Neil Simon into the 1972 film “The Heartbreak Kid.” In 1980, he got his first screenplay produced with “Stir Crazy,” which was directed by Sidney Poitier and starred Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor as two men on hard times who are framed for robbery after taking a job wearing woodpecker costumes for a job with a bank.

Then, in 1984, Friedman co-wrote “Splash,” the first movie released by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label. The film starred Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah as a couple who fall in love, though Hanks’ character doesn’t know that he’s fallen in love with a mermaid. The film earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy as well as a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Friedman at the Oscars. It was a surprise box office success and is credited with helping Hanks rise to stardom in the lead-up to his breakthrough hit “Big” four years later.

Other books written by Friedman include “The Dick,” “The Current Climate,” and the nonfiction book “The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life,” the latter of which was adapted into a 1984 romantic comedy starring Steve Martin. His final work was the screenplay for the 2013 film “Brazzaville Teen-Ager,” which he co-wrote with Michael Cera.

Friedman is survived by his wife, Patricia O’Donohue; three sons, musician Josh Alan Friedman, cartoonist Drew Friedman and photographer Kipp Friedman; and a daughter, Molly Stout; and three grandchildren.