This week, the film world lost another exceptional talent in Richard Glatzer, an outstanding screenplay writer and director.
Best known for his recent Oscar-winning film Still Alice, which he co-wrote and directed with his husband Wash Westmoreland, Glatzer's battle with the ALS disease finally came to an end on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
He was 63.
A long and prosperous career
Born in New York, Glatzer started out his career as a professor, completing a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Virginia before getting fully side-tracked into the entertainment industry.
As well as working as a TV producer for wildly successful shows such as America's Next Top Model, together with his partner Westmoreland, the pair have collaborated on a great number of notable movies. The couple met in 1995 and were married in 2013.
Alongside their debut with The Fluffer in 2001, they also earned awards for Quinceanera, a 2006 film about a young pregnant girl growing up in L.A. In addition to this, they are well known for directing The Last of Robin Hood in 2013 starring Dakota Fanning and Kevin Kline.
"A true artist and a brilliant man"
Since news of his death has spread, many have taken to Twitter and social media to pay their respects. However, it was Glatzer's husband that delivered one of the most heart-wrenching tributes to the man behind the overwhelming talent.
In a statement on Tuesday, Westmoreland was awash with emotion:
"I am devastated [...] Rich was my soulmate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. [He] 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.
Julianne Moore, who starred in the leading role in Still Alice, also spoke out but struggled to put her grief into words, simply tweeting:
A courageous battle with the debilitating effects of ALS
In 2011, Glatzer was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative condition ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The doctors broke the news to him just after he and his husband began working on Still Alice.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spine. It results in chronic muscle weakness and gradually impacts the overall functioning of the body.
In the US, around 30,000 are currently living with the disease. From the point of diagnosis, the average life expectancy of ALS patients is between 2 to 5 years.
Addressing his husband's ALS, Westmoreland praised the late director's courageous approach to living with a terminal illness:
"Rich is an incredibly strong person, and never let the disease get him down. He always wanted to keep life as normal as possible."
Indeed, Glatzer's determination to carry on doing the things he loved are a tribute to his unbreakable spirit and bravery.
Still Alice is Glatzer's crowning achievement
Despite the severe limitations brought on by the terrible disease, his ability to achieve what appeared to be impossible is truly phenomenal. For a man whose physical deterioration prevented him from communicating his direction, the completion of a full feature film is an incredible feat.
Indeed, at a Still Alice press conference at the end of 2014, the director himself reflected that:
"It's ironic that in my deteriorated state I'd be able to make a film that was creatively everything I'd ever wished for."
Taking on the project that portrayed a linguistics academic suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, during the 23-day shoot, Glatzer communicated using only one finger on a text-to-speech app on his iPad. By the end of 2014, the talented director was only able to put his words across by typing on the device with his big toe.
Speaking about his determination to be heard, he praised the kindness and care of the wonderful people he worked with, saying:
"[I] felt very much heard by everyone, every day. And it's so very important if you're struggling with a disease like this to feel you still matter."
"He said he wanted to make movies, and that's what he did"
Unfortunately, the director was too unwell to attend the Academy Awards last month due to severe respiratory problems. And sadly, he was not present to witness Moore's Oscars acceptance speech for Best Actress, in which she lovingly spoke about the two filmmakers with admiration:
“And finally, to our filmmakers, Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, who had hoped to be here tonight but they can’t because of Richard’s health. When Richard was diagnosed with ALS, Wash asked him what he wanted to do. Did he want to travel? Did he want to see the world? And he said that he wanted to make movies, and that’s what he did.”
Referring to the movie, Westmoreland also concluded in his statement:
"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."
With Glatzer's death, it is undeniable that the world has lost an exceptional human being. Yet, his legacy remains in the hearts of those who loved him and in the passion he bestowed upon his craft.
Richard Glatzer, we will miss you.
For those of you who have not seen the movie yet, here is the trailer: