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Richard Glatzer, who courageously battled the debilitating effects of ALS as he wrote and directed the Julianne Moore film Still Alice with his husband, Wash Westmoreland, has died. He was 63.
Glatzer died Tuesday in Los Angeles, Ekta Farrar of the publicity firm of Block Korenbrot confirmed. His death came less than three weeks after Moore won the best actress Oscar on Feb. 22 for her performance as a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s who comes unraveled.
Glatzer was taken by ambulance to an L.A. hospital two days before the ceremony with severe respiratory problems, and he and Westmoreland planned to watch the Oscar telecast from the hospital.
Glatzer and Westmoreland adapted Still Alice from a novel by Lisa Genova. Shortly before they took on the project in 2011, Glatzer was diagnosed with ALS, and his condition rapidly deteriorated. Still, he never missed a day of filming.
At the end, Glatzer was able to “speak” only by tapping the big toe of his right foot on a specially designed iPad.
Glatzer and Westmoreland met in 1995 and married in 2013.
“I am devastated,” Westmoreland said Tuesday in a statement. “Rich was my soulmate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Seeing him battle ALS for four years with such grace and courage inspired me and all who knew him.
“In this dark time, I take some consolation in the fact that he got to see Still Alice go out into the world. He put his heart and soul into that film, and the fact that it touched so many people was a constant joy to him.
“Thank you to everyone for this huge outpouring of love. Richard was a unique guy — opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous and so, so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short 20 years we had together.
“I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him, he will always be alive.”
Glatzer told NPR in a recent interview that at first, reading Genova’s book about dealing with such an advancing illness was difficult. “It just cut too close to the bone,” he said. “But once I’d finished it, I felt determined to make Still Alice into a movie. It really resonated with me.”
“From my point of view, the one thing the movie does is really look at the role of a caregiver,” Westmoreland said in a January interview with the WGA West. “That is certainly my own life now. I am primarily a caregiver.
“If we’ve shined any light on that, I would be very pleased and proud. I’ll say, also, that when you’re looking after someone who is ill day in and day out, looking after every need they have, it can be very, very tough, and making the film and now watching the film, I myself am inspired to do better, to serve better, to love better, to be more emotionally present — no matter how tough the days can be. It might sound silly that I draw inspiration from my own film, but I do.”
They made their first splash as filmmakers with Quinceanera (2006), a film about a pregnant 14-year-old Latina (Emily Rios) growing up in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood (the pair had moved into the area a few years earlier). The drama took the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
They also teamed on The Last of Robin Hood (2013), the drama that starred Kevin Kline as aging Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn, and The Fluffer (2001), which was set in the porn industry.
Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics, which distributed Still Alice, called the death of Glatzer “a profound loss for all of us who worked with him and know him as an exceptional human being.”
Born Jan. 28, 1952, in Queens, N.Y., Glatzer attended the University of Michigan, received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia (where he formed a friendship with legendary director Frank Capra) and taught screenwriting in NYC at the School of Visual Arts and The New School.
He came to L.A. to produce the daytime TV show Divorce Court and, using that experience, wrote and directed Grief (1993), which featured Illeana Douglas in a story about a sleazy daytime show.
Glatzer also produced the Tyra Banks reality show America’s Next Top Model.
In addition to Westmoreland, Glatzer is survived by his sister, Joan, and her husband, David, his loving nieces and nephews, and his daughter, Ruby.
Moore lovingly talked about the Still Alice filmmakers in her Oscar acceptance speech:
“And finally, to our filmmakers, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, who had hoped to be here tonight but they can’t because of Richard’s health. When Richard was diagnosed with ALS, Wash asked him what he wanted to do. Did he want to travel? Did he want to see the world? And he said that he wanted to make movies, and that’s what he did.”
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