Richard Glatzer, Indie Film Director Behind 'Still Alice,' Dies



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Filmmaker Richard Glatzer, who directed a number of well regarded indie films with his husband, Wash Westmoreland, has died. Glatzer had Lou Gehrig's disease but chose to keep working.

Filmmaker Richard Glatzer, who directed a number of well regarded indie films with his husband, Wash Westmoreland, has died. Glatzer had Lou Gehrig's disease but chose to keep working. He finished his career with this year's Still Alice, which won Julianne Moore an Academy Award.

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Filmmaker Richard Glatzer has died at the age of 63. He was the cowriter and codirector of the film "Still Alice," along with his husband, Wash Westmoreland. Actress Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of the title character, a brilliant linguistics professor struggling with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.


JULIANNE MOORE: (As Alice Howland) It feels like my brain is dying, and everything I've worked for in my entire life is going. It's all going.

CORNISH: Glatzer had his own struggle in the course of making this film. He had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, he didn't let that keep him from doing what he loved best.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: In an interview earlier this year, Richard Glatzer told me that when he was reading the novel that was the basis for "Still Alice," he wasn't sure he could bring himself to work on the project.


RICHARD GLATZER: My medical condition made reading the book quite difficult for me. It just cut too close to the bone.

JAFFE: Glatzer had to use a speech program in an iPad to answer questions. He typed what he wanted to stay with the big toe on his right foot.


GLATZER: But once I finished it, I felt determined to make "Still Alice" into a movie. It really resonated with me.

JAFFE: Glatzer and his husband, Wash Westmoreland, made four films together, including "Quinceanera," which won both the grand jury prize and the audience award at Sundance in 2006. Westmoreland said it was their love of film that brought them together when they met at a party in 1995.


WASH WESTMORELAND: And we started talking immediately about movies and found that's where both our passions lay. And we haven't stopped talking about movies since.

GLATZER: He moved right in.

WESTMORELAND: (Laughter) I think it was like a few days, and it was like, ah, let's not mess around. Let's just - you know, we've found each other.

JAFFE: As you can hear from that exchange, ALS was no barrier to Glatzer's wit. But Westmoreland says with just 23 days to shoot "Still Alice," Glatzer's illness did present challenges on the set.


WESTMORELAND: We are co-directors. We've always worked everything out together, and now there was, you know, an impediment to that.

JAFFE: Yet the film's star, Julianne Moore, told ALL THINGS CONSIDERED that Glatzer's illness was no impediment for her.


MOORE: I found that very quickly what Richard was going through physically faded and didn't prevent me from communicating with him. He's got a very, very quick mind - very facile, really funny and very decisive. And so after a while, that was just how it went. And what was interesting was how quickly his disease faded from my mind.

JAFFE: Richard Glatzer's love of film began in childhood. The New York native earned a PhD in English at the University of Virginia and taught screenwriting in New York. In the 1980s, he moved to the West Coast where his first job in the industry was producing the daytime TV show, "Divorce Court." That experience inspired his 1993 film, "Grief." And for years after, when independent filmmaking wasn't paying the bills, Glatzer worked in reality TV, including on "America's Next Top Model." With the success of "Still Alice," Glatzer and Westmoreland said they'd hoped that wouldn't be necessary anymore. They were about to announce their next project and hoped to be in production this summer. Ina Jaffe, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.