'Simpsons,' 'Thor' Screenwriter Don Payne Dies at 48
UPDATE: He collected four Emmys as part of the long-running Fox sitcom's writing team and penned both Marvel films about the Nordic god superhero.
Don Payne, a four-time Emmy winner for The Simpsons who co-wrote the screenplay to the Thor movie and its sequel, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with bone cancer. He was 48.
Actresses Kat Dennings and Jaimie Alexander, who appeared in 2011's Thor and will be back for the November sequel Thor: The Dark World, tweeted the news Wednesday.
Payne, a self-professed “comic book geek,” also was behind the scripts for My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006), starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) and Columbia’s upcoming Maximum Ride, based on James Patterson’s young adult novel.
Payne started on The Simpsons in 1998 and wrote more than a dozen episodes of the long-running Fox series and served as a consulting producer on 100. He has two episodes in production that will air this fall in the show’s 25th season, including this year’s Christmas show, “White Christmas Blues.” He won the WGA's Paul Selvin Award in 2005 for his Simpsons script “Fraudcast News.”
“Don was a wonderful writer and an even more wonderful man,” showrunner Al Jean said. “He was beloved in the Simpsons community, and his untimely passing is terrible news to us all. I know he is up with Thor now looking down at us and smiling.”
Payne also worked on a series of failed TV sitcoms in the ’90s: Hope & Gloria, Pride & Joy, Can’t Hurry Love, Men Behaving Badly, Veronica’s Closet and The Brian Benben Show. Payne, a native of Wilmington, N.C., teamed for years with fellow screenwriter John Frink, whom he met when both attended UCLA.
“They all fall under the category of ‘paying your dues,' ” Payne told Huffington Post in 2006. “As a TV writer or any writer starting out, you have to take whatever work you can get to break into the business. It might not be something you love or something you’re particularly proud of, but you’ve got to do it to pay the bills and get your foot in the door. You hope it leads you to bigger and better things, something you love.”
Dennings called Payne “a wonderful, beautiful man. … I am lucky to have known you. You are so missed.”
Added Alexander: “My heart is broken. You were a wonderful, funny man who helped change my life and I will always love you. The world is less today. Don, may you rest in peace and may peace and love be with your family. You are in my heart always.”
Survivors include his wife Julie and three children.