Tom Rickman, Screenwriter on 'Hooper' and 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' Dies at 78

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'Coal Miner's Daughter' (1980)

He earned an Oscar nomination for his work on the Sissy Spacek musical drama as well as two Emmy noms during his decades-long career.

Tom Rickman, screenwriter of such films as the Burt Reynolds-starrer Hooper and the Oscar-winning Coal Miner's Daughter, died Monday of cancer. He was 78.

Friend and fellow screenwriter Nicholas Meyer confirmed the news Wednesday in a Facebook post, writing, "It is with an exceedingly heavy heart that I report the death of my dear friend and colleague, Tom Rickman, who died Monday after a long and courageous battle with cancer. When I first came to Hollywood (somewhat after the Civil War), Tom was the hottest writer in town. And I hated him. Hated him until I met him. Then I loved him from that day to this." 

Rickman was born in the small mining town of Sharpe, Kentucky, in 1940, where he lived without television or indoor plumbing. He attended graduate school at the University of Illinois and adapted a Flannery O'Connor story for the short film Good Blood, which caught the interest of the AFI Conservatory. He left Illinois to attend AFI, which led to his first screenwriting film credit, in turn leading to the start of his career on such films as the Raquel Welch-starrer Kansas City Bomber (1972), The Laughing Policeman (1973) and The White Dawn (1974).

Rickman earned an Academy Award nomination for his writing on Coal Miner's Daughter in 1981. The film earned star Sissy Spacek a best actress Oscar.

Following Coal Miner's Daughter, Rickman was given the opportunity to make his directorial debut with 1984's The River Rat, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Martha Plimpton and Brian Dennehy. He also penned the script for the film that he described as a cross between The Night of the Hunter and Huckleberry Finn.

Rickman also wrote for TV movies, including 1995's Truman, which earned an him an Emmy nomination, and 2003's The Reagans, for which he also received an Emmy nom. He also wrote 1999's Tuesdays With Morrie telefilm, which earned star Jack Lemmon a Golden Globe nomination. 

Rickman also had three directing credits, including an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1986 and the TV movie A Mother's Fight for Justice in 2001, which he also wrote.