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Audrey Wells, the screenwriter and director who was behind such films as Guinevere, Under the Tuscan Sun and The Hate U Give, an awards-season contender that arrived in theaters Friday, has died. She was 58.
Wells died Thursday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer, her reps at United Talent Agency announced. Her films frequently focused on strong female characters.
The Hate U Give, which had its world premiere just a few weeks ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, is Wells’ adaptation of Angie Thomas’ YA novel of the same name. Directed by George Tillman Jr., the film is about a 16-year-old black girl (Amandla Stenberg) who divides her time between an affluent, predominantly white high school and her more diverse, working-class neighborhood. She gets caught in the middle when she witnesses her childhood friend killed by a cop.
Wells both wrote and directed Guinevere (1999), starring Sarah Polley, and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003), starring Diane Lane.
She penned screenplays for other films including The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996), George of the Jungle (1997), The Kid (2000), Shall We Dance (2004) and A Dog’s Purpose (2017).
Her last movie, the animated Over the Moon — about a girl who builds a rocket to travel to the moon — is now in production.
Wells is survived by her daughter, Tatiana, and her husband, Brian Larky.
“Over the last five and half years, Audrey fought valiantly against her illness, and she died surrounded by love,” Larky said in a statement. “Even during her fight, she never stopped living, working or traveling, and she never lost her joy, wonder and optimism. She was, simply, the most incredible wife and partner imaginable, and she knew always that she was loved by Tatiana, me and the friends who were her chosen family.
“She said just recently, ‘We’re so lucky, honey. We got to live a love story. Who gets to do that?’ We will carry her forward with us forever — as a mother, as a wife, as an artist and creator and as a friend. She was irreplaceable.”
Wells adapted Frances Mayes’ book — about a female writer (Lane) who impulsively buys a villa in Italy in a bid to change her life — for Under the Tuscan Sun.
“When I read the book I was working on an idea in my mind about a woman overcoming heartbreak,” she told Charlie Rose in 2003. “I realized I could take that theme and I could marry it with the circumstances of Frances’ book. Between those ideas of mine and Frances’ book, something really new was put together.”
In a statement, executives from 20th Century Fox, which is distributing The Hate U Give, said: “We are simply heartbroken. Audrey’s was a voice of empowerment and courage, and her words will live on through the strong, determined female characters she brought to life.”
Born in San Francisco on April 29, 1960, Wells’ early career included work as a disc jockey at jazz station KJAZ-FM in San Francisco and in public radio in remote stations in the Alaskan arctic, which she said gave her something to write about when she got to film school.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkeley and a master’s of fine arts from UCLA.
“Audrey was a beloved client and, far more importantly, a wonderful friend. It was impossible not to fall in love with her and the passion that brought her stories to life,” UTA co-president David Kramer said in a statement. “The strong, independent female characters she shaped resonate today more than ever and will be a part of her legacy always. We will miss her amazing spirit, creativity and the love she gave us. She was truly special.”
In lieu of flowers, her family suggested donations to her favorite nonprofits, The Feminist Majority Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.
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