Richard Glatzer knew from disease. The writer and director was diagnosed with ALS back in 2011, just before he and husband Wash Westmoreland took on Still Alice, the Julianne Moore-starring heartbreaker about a professor, wife, and mother who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. As Glatzer recently told NPR, the closeness he felt to the story—adapted from a Lisa Genova book—almost prohibited him and Westmoreland from taking on the project. “My medical condition made reading the book quite difficult for me,” he said. “It just cut too close to the bone. But once I'd finished it, I felt determined to make Still Alice into a movie. It really resonated with me.”
Glatzer died yesterday at age 63, from complications due to his disease.
The parellels between Glatzer’s life and Still Alice, a film that charts the deterioration of Moore’s Alice and how it effects her relationships with her family, especially her husband (played by Alec Baldwin), made for a compelling parallel narrative for the film, which earned Moore her first Best Actress Academy Award, and yet Glatzer didn’t hang his work on it. Sick for most of the film’s shooting, Glatzer never missed a day of work, and even when he could only communicate by tapping out messages on an iPad with a single toe, he and Westmoreland still strived to do equal work.
Equal work was something the married couple excelled at, and Glatzer and Westmoreland’s work evidenced a pair of talents who had a wide range of interests and abilities. Their first film together was the 2001 porn-set The Fluffer, a comedy. In 2006, they made Sundance Grand Jury Prize- and Audience Award-winning drama Quinceanara. By 2013, they moved into Hollywood history with The Last Of Robin Hood, a Kevin Kline-starring look at the last days of Errol Flynn.
A Queens native, Glatzer also worked in reality television, including Divorce Court and America’s Next Top Model. His first film, Grief, won the Audience Award at San Francisco’s Frameline Festival.
Westmoreland, Glatzer’s partner in both life and professional endeavors, issued a heartbreaking statement on Glatzer’s passing, reprinted in The Hollywood Reporter:
“I am devastated. Rich was my soulmate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Seeing him battle ALS for four years with such grace and courage inspired me and all who knew him. In this dark time, I take some consolation in the fact that he got to see Still Alice go out into the world. He put his heart and soul into that film, and the fact that it touched so many people was a constant joy to him. Thank you to everyone for this huge outpouring of love. Richard was a unique guy — opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous and so, so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short 20 years we had together. I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him, he will always be alive.”
Glatzer is survived by his husband and his daughter Ruby, along with his sister Joan, her husband David, and his loving nieces and nephews.