The current Marvel Cinematic Universe of superhero blockbusters, sequels and spin-offs might not exist if not for screenwriter Alvin Sargent, who is dead from natural causes at age 92 on May 9.
The two-time Oscar winner for his scripts for 1977’s “Julia” and 1980’s “Ordinary People” was involved in the screenplays for the original “Spider-Man” trilogy that began in 2002 starring Tobey Maguire as Spidey the web-slinger that would redefine and elevate the modern superhero genre and set the standard for all the spandex-wearing crusaders who followed. I recall Oscar talk for the possibility that Sargent’s much-praised script for 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” could be nominated — an unheard-of notion back then for a film based on a comic-book.
Sargent would also contribute to 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the reboot of the series starring Andrew Garfield. It would be his final script, which the scribe completed when he was 85. The Spider-Man films were produced for and distributed by Sony (not Disney), which had purchased the rights for that particular character from Marvel much earlier than the MCU was in production.
He began his career writing episodes of TV shows in the ’60s, including such dramas as “Ben Casey,” “Route 66,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” and “Run For Your Life.” He would go on to pen or co-write such memorable big-screen scripts as “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969), “Paper Moon” (1973), “A Star Is Born (1976, uncredited), “Bobby Deerfield” (1977), “Straight Time” (1978) and “Unfaithful” (2002).
He would wed second wife Laura Ziskin, the former studio chief and producer of the first “Spider-Man” movies in 2010. She would die in 2011 after suffering from breast cancer. His late brother, Herb Sargent, was a producer and also writer who created the “Weekend Update” segment with Chevy Chase for “Saturday Night Live.”
Of course, being a writer, Sargent scribbled his own punny epithet, when he once said, “When I die, I’m going to have written on my tombstone, ‘Finally a plot.’ ” Above is a YouTube video of Sargent in 2016 giving a talk at the Writers Guild of America that might interest both aspiring screenwriters as well as movie buffs.