Dog Day Afternoon is one of my favorite scripts/movies, so I was sad to hear of Frank Pierson’s passing a few days. One of my colleagues, Jesse Wolfe, was lucky to count Pierson as a mentor at AFI and had this to say:
He was imposing and made us all quake in our boots when we were called before the school to present and then defend our student films. You sat there next to him and he barely looked at you, then all of sudden whip around and his eyes blazed into yours just as he was making his point. But behind the blaze was sheer glee at the chance to help a young filmmaker find their voice. He spent dozens of hours(secretly laughing at me) as I argued my points with my usual passion and zeal, and then he would pat me on the back and say “I’d hate to be the producer that ever has to clash with you Mr. Wolfe”….but where many a professor would leave it at that, he’d ask another probing question that would get me going again…and he’d smile and listen. I got away with absolutely nothing. He wore my ego down to the nub. And he made me a better filmmaker and person. I now hear him in my own dealings with students, and hope I am doing his influence on me justice.
Howard A. Rodman, vice-president of the WGA West sent out this notice on the Screenwriting Research Network:
I write, sadly, to inform you of the death of Frank Pierson. He was, without qualification, one of the great writers of our era. His medium was television and film. From Have Gun Will Travel to Mad Men, from Cool Hand Luke to Dog Day Afternoon to… He was also a fine, muscular director (Citizen Cohn; Soldier’s Girl) and a generous, honorable leader (he was president of the Writers Guild and of the Motion Picture Academy). He was a friend to my father and a friend to me. I’ll miss his presence, kind and fierce. His writing stays with us, and is a model for what, with hard work, we might achieve.
I always knew Frank was not young, but It never crossed my mind, not even vaguely, that he might someday die. He was a force of nature as well as an icon of the cinema. (What other 87-year-old do you know who tears out of the Musso and Frank parking lot in his top-down Tesla?) His death is a shock as well as a surprise. It’s hard to imagine him gone.
For a broader picture of Pierson’s life, here is the New York Times‘ obit.
For my own tribute, I offer Elton John’s “Amoreena,” as featured in the title sequence to Dog Day Afternoon: