Marvel’s Spider-Man Screenwriter Alvin Sargent Dies Age 92

By Tiffany Meier

Two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Alvin Sargent, known for the Spider-Man film trilogy, has died. He was 92.

Sargent died of natural causes at his home in Seattle on Thursday, May 9, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The outlet obtained confirmation of the news from an announcement by Sargent’s friend, producer Pam Williams.

Sargent won the Oscar for the Holocaust drama “Julia” in 1977 and again in 1980 for “Ordinary People,” an intimate look at a family dealing with tragedy. He also worked on the screenplays for Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man 3 (2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), according to IMDb.

Producers Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin and writer Alvin Sargent attend the premiere of the Sony film "Spider-Man 2"
Producers Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin and writer Alvin Sargent attend the premiere of the Sony film “Spider-Man 2” in Westwood, Calif., on June 22, 2004. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Many writers credit Sargent with inspiring them to write, including “Star Wars” director J.J. Abrams. In a Ted Talk, he cited “Ordinary People” as the inspiration behind his 1991 “Regarding Henry,” which would launch his career.

“I realize the blank page is a magic box, you know? It needs to be filled with something fantastic,” Abrams said in a 2007 Ted Talk. “I used to have the Ordinary People script that I’d flip through. The romance was amazing to me; it would inspire me. I wanted to try to fill pages with the same kind of spirit and thought and emotion that that script did.”

Screenwriter Alvin Sargent attends the Great To Be Nominated screening series presentation of Julia at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Screenwriter Alvin Sargent attends the Great To Be Nominated screening series presentation of Julia at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., April 24, 2007. (Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

Born as Alvin Supowitz on April 12, 1927 in Philadelphia, Sargent said he spent the majority of his early years “safe in the dark” at the movies, according to a 2008 interview with the Writers Guild Foundation. When World War II started, he dropped out of high school and served in the navy. As part of his training, he learned Morse code. Because of that, he said he “learned to type really well, and that was my one skill in life.”

When the Second World War ended, Sargent said he began looking for a purpose and “took jobs to earn a living, but my one passion was typing. Not writing.” He added in the interview, “It never occurred to me to be a screenwriter, or any kind of a writer, or anything, actually. I never had a plan.”

Eventually, he landed a job revising scripts. During that time, he worked on scripts for such shows as “Empire,” “Route 66,” and “Naked City.” He credited the producers of “Naked City,” Lee Davis and Herbert Leonard for helping him expand his writing capabilities.

“These guys were fantastic,” he said in his 2008 interview. “They worked with you. And you really learned how to put stuff together.”

Later in life, he took on the challenge of adapting Stan Lee’s “Spider-Man” for the screen.

“Now this is what a superhero movie should be,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film. “‘Spider-Man 2’ believes in its story in the same way serious comic readers believe, when the adventures on the page express their own dreams and wishes.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was quoted as saying, “When I die, I’m going to have written on my tombstone, ‘Finally, a plot.'”

A memorial service will be held in Los Angeles—date not yet announced. Instead of flowers, the family asks for contributions to Stand Up to Cancer, which his wife Laura Ziskin co-founded in 2008.

Following the news of his death, several people took to social media to remember the veteran Hollywood screenwriter.

“RIP Alvin Sargent. An exemplary screenwriter. Paper Moon, Ordinary People, and Spider-Man 2 are all, in their very different ways, master classes–tone-perfect, impeccably structured, witty, human, worth visiting and revisiting,” Novelist Mark Harris wrote on Twitter.

Filmmaker Rod Lurie wrote on Twitter, “#AlvinSargent was so brilliant at emotional structure and dialogue that dripped with authenticity. He won Oscars for JULIA and ORDINARY PEOPLE. But, if you ask me, his greater masterpieces were PAPER MOON and the woefully under-appreciated STRAIGHT TIME.”

And writer-producer of the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” Craig Mazin, wrote on Twitter:

“Alvin Sargent wrote What About Bob? But also Ordinary People. But also Spiderman 2. He’s the patron saint of Unpigeonholeable Screenwriters. Good night, sir.”

American screenwriter Larry Karaszewski wrote on Twitter, “There was no one better than Alvin Sargent.”