LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tom Mankiewicz, the screenwriter of such James Bond films as “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Live and Let Die” and the first two “Superman” movies, has died in Los Angeles at 68.
Mankiewicz died Saturday at his home after battling cancer. He underwent the Whipple operation, which is used to treat pancreatic cancer, three months ago.
A cause of death was not immediately known.
He was a member of Hollywood’s legendary Mankiewicz family: His father was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director of classics including “All About Eve,” ”A Letter to Three Wives” and “The Barefoot Contessa.” He was also the nephew of “Citizen Kane” co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz.
Tom Mankiewicz directed the 1987 movie “Dragnet,” starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, and several episodes of the TV series “Hart to Hart.”
His cousin, Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, said Monday that Tom Mankiewicz was in good spirits when they had lunch last week and was looking forward to returning this fall to Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where he taught filmmaking to graduate students.
“He was hopeful,” Ben Mankiewicz said. “He left lunch in a very good mood. He told stories about John Wayne and Michael Curtiz, and how he was going to get me to appreciate John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ more.”
The Palm restaurant, where he ate daily, held his regular booth empty Monday in his honor.
Mankiewicz began his career as an assistant director on Curtiz’s last film, “The Comancheros” in 1961, in which Wayne starred.
In 1970, he was hired to rewrite “Diamonds Are Forever,” which was the beginning of a longtime association with the Broccoli family and the Bond franchise. He also wrote “The Man With the Golden Gun” and made uncredited contributions to “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.”
Director Richard Donner asked Mankiewicz to rewrite and condense the scripts for 1978’s “Superman” and the 1980 sequel “Superman II,” for which he received credit as a creative consultant but not as a writer.
“Making ‘Superman’ was only possible because when Tom came in, he brought his sense of humor and brought those characters to life,” Donner said in a family statement. “A lot of people in this town have ‘the gift of gab.’ Tom’s was unique; there was always a true emotional center.”
Mankiewicz again went by the “creative consultant” credit on “Hart to Hart,” which aired from 1979-84, even though he was a writer and director on the series.
“I don’t think it’s easy trying to succeed in Hollywood as a Mankiewicz, and especially as Joe Mankiewicz’s son,” Ben Mankiewicz said of the four-time Oscar winner. “But Tom carved out his own sort of realm of success, and I think it was pretty impressive.”
Tom Mankiewicz is survived by his brother Christopher, a film producer; his sister, Alexandra; his nephew, Jason; and many cousins working in film, television or journalism.