Bill Wittliff Dies: ‘Lonesome Dove’ And ‘The Perfect Storm’ Writer Was 79

Writer, director and photographer Bill Wittliff, who penned the script for iconic 1980s television miniseries Lonesome Dove, died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 79.

Wittliff’s numerous credits included screenplays for the 1994 film Legends of the Fall starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Aidan Quinn; The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly in 2000; and the 1982 film Barbarosa starring Willie Nelson. He also wrote and directed the 1986 Western, Red Headed Stranger, which featured Nelson, Morgan Fairchild and R.G. Armstrong.

One of Wittliff’s other achievements was co-founding Texas State University’s archive of Southwestern writers.

His longtime friend, author and journalist Stephen Harrigan, said the filmmaker proved you didn’t have to move to Hollywood to be successful in the industry.

“It’s impossible to overstate the influence Bill had on writers, photographers and filmmakers, all throughout Austin, Texas and the United States,” Harrigan told the Austin American-Statesman Monday. “He made it possible for people with raging ambition to plant a flag in Austin and Texas and make this their hometown. He defied the dictum that you had to move to Hollywood to be successful.”

In 2006, Wittliff was inducted into the Southeast Texas Filmmaker Hall of Fame at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

He is survived by his wife Sally Wittliff, their two children, Reed Wittliff and Allison Andrews, and four grandchildren.

“Saturday was our 56th wedding anniversary,” Sally told the paper.

Details on a memorial service are still being finalized.

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