Gloria Katz, 'American Graffiti' Writer and 'Star Wars' Script Doctor, Dies at 76

Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic
Gloria Katz

The Oscar nominee collaborated with her husband, Willard Huyck, on the George Lucas films and many other projects.

Gloria Katz, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter who partnered with her husband, Willard Huyck, on the scripts for the George Lucas classics American Graffiti and Star Wars, has died. She was 76.

Katz died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long battle with ovarian cancer, Huyck told The Hollywood Reporter. She died on their 49th wedding anniversary.

Katz and her husband also penned the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), produced by Lucas from his story.

The couple wrote the script for Stanley Donan's Lucky Lady (1975) as well as those for Messiah of Evil (1973), French Postcards (1979), Best Defense (1984), Howard the Duck (1986) — all directed by Huyck — and Radioland Murders (1994).

They shared an Oscar nomination with Lucas for their work on American Graffiti (1973).

Born in Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 1942, Katz attended UC Berkeley as an English major. She went to UCLA to get her graduate degree in history but left with a masters in film. She married Huyck, who became friends with Lucas at USC, in 1969. 

Lucas wanted her husband "to write about cruising for American Graffiti, and I sort of came with the package," she recalled in a 2017 interview.

She said that Lucas had "a lot of reservations" about his script for his follow-up, Star Wars (1977), as filming was about to begin. "He said, 'Polish it — write anything you want and then I'll go over it and see what I need,'" she said. "George didn't want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence."

Katz noted she and Huyck tried to add as much humor as possible and wrote about 30 percent of the film's dialogue. They also shaped Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia to be a woman who "can take command; she doesn’t take any shit … instead of just [being] a beautiful woman that schlepped along to be saved," she said.

Katz was on the board of the WGA and an advisor at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open next year. 

Chair of the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles, Katz and her husband were collectors of Japanese photographs, and their collection was recently acquired by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian. They also were authors of the 2017 book Views of Japan and active members of the Getty Museum.

Survivors include their daughter, Rebecca.