William Goldman Meets Richard Widmark
Widmark left indelible impressions
William Goldman remembers the acting icon
By WILLIAM GOLDMAN
I only met Richard Widmark once, and briefly, a third of a century ago, but I'm not going to forget him.
I was in London, working with the director John Schhlesinger on a novel and screenplay of mine, "Marathon Man." Schlesinger, unquestionably brilliant, had won the best directing Oscar a few years earlier for his work on "Midnight Cowboy." He had also been nominated for "Darling" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday."
And he was, at this time, terrified he was dead in Hollywood. He had finished a movie, "The Day of the Locust," that he was convinced would destroy him. So he accepted "Marathon Man" -- a thriller -- for salvation.
We had a marvelous cast -- Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider, William Devane -- and the very great Laurence Olivier.
Who was sick, and maybe dying.
I asked our producer, Robert Evans, if Olivier was set and he replied: "Is he set? Is Oliver set? He's so set you wouldn't believe it." Then he paused, finished up with this: "Of course he isn't set-set."
OK, I am staying at a hotel, working in Schlesinger's house, and I ring his doorbell on this special day, and he answers, looking very surprised indeed.
"Richard Widmark is coming over -- he wants to read for Szell," the Olivier part.
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