A. Martin Zweiback, Screenwriter on Katharine Hepburn's 'Grace Quigley,' Dies at 85

Grace Quigley (1984) - Katharine Hepburn (as Grace Quigley) and Nick Nolte -Photofest-H 2016
John Seakwood/Cannon Film Distributors/Photofest

He did a rare 'writer's cut' on the film and also penned 'Me, Natalie,' which starred Patty Duke and Al Pacino in his first movie.

A. Martin Zweiback, who wrote the screenplay for the 1984 black comedy Grace Quigley, which starred Katharine Hepburn in her final leading role, has died. He was 85.

Zweiback died Saturday at his home in Santa Monica of cancer, his friend Joan Dykman told The Hollywood Reporter. Dykman is serving as trustee and executor of his literary estate.

Zweiback received a WGA nomination for writing Me, Natalie (1969), which starred Patty Duke and James Farentino and featured Al Pacino in his first big-screen appearance. He also wrote and directed the anti-war melodrama Cactus in the Snow (1971), starring Richard Thomas.

Grace Quigley, produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus' Cannon Group, starred Hepburn as an elderly widow in New York who after twice trying to kill herself blackmails a hitman (Nick Nolte) to do the job.

The film was directed by Anthony Harvey, the director of The Lion in Winter (1968), for which Hepburn won the third of her four Oscars for best actress.

As the story goes, Zweiback had tossed a 25-page treatment for Grace Quigley over George Cukor’s gate at his Beverly Hills estate in 1972. Hepburn was at the director's home at the time, and she loved the story. Years later, Zweiback was set to helm the film but agreed to step aside in favor of Harvey after Hepburn had promised the Englishman (who had been seriously injured in an auto accident) that he would direct her next movie.

Grace Quigley, with its right-to-die theme, was panned at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, but Zweiback re-edited the irreverent film into a version called The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley that was fondly received by critics. A "writer's cut" is a very rare thing in Hollywood.

"I would love to see a DVD come out with both versions," Zweiback said in a 2003 interview with THR's Kirk Honeycutt shortly after Hepburn's death. "It could be used by every film school in the country. What could teach more about the effects of editing and music than this particular film?”

A native of Brooklyn who earned his master's degree from UCLA, Zweiback was represented by top agents Swifty Lazar and Marty Baum during his career.

He started out in television with a 1963 episode of The Rifleman and went on to work on such series as Combat!, Run for Your Life, Medical Center, Kung Fu — on some of that series' highest-rated episodes — and The Paper Chase.

Survivors include his sons Michael, Jeffrey and Marshall and seven grandchildren.