Arthur Hiller, who received an Oscar nomination for directing the hugely popular romantic tragedy Love Story during a career that spanned dozens of popular movies and TV shows, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 92.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced his death Wednesday. Hiller served as academy president from 1993 to 1997.
Although since dismissed by some as overly syrupy, Love Story, with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as star-crossed Ivy League lovers, was one of the most popular movies of 1970. The film, based on the popular novel of the same name by Erich Segal, reduced thousands of moviegoers to tears and created a national catch phrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
MacGraw said in a statement Wednesday that Hiller was “an integral part of one of the most important experiences of my life.”
“He was a remarkable, gifted, generous human being and I will miss him terribly,” MacGraw said. “My heart and love go out to his family. ” Interestingly enough, Hiller recalled in 1991, the film almost didn’t get made.
“Paramount was in rocky financial shape,” he recalled, and executives wanted to cancel the project. But production boss Robert Evans loved the script and allowed Hiller to proceed — if he would spend only $2 million US. The director brought the film in $25,000 under budget, then insisted on spending $15,000 for memorable scenes in the Boston snow.
Love Story kicked off a busy two decades of work for Hiller, who had gotten his start directing such television shows as Gunsmoke, Perry Mason and The Rifleman in the 1950s.
He directed nearly two dozen feature films between 1970 and 1990 and was equally at ease with comedy or drama. He even helmed a musical, 1972’s Man of La Mancha with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren, and a biography, 1976’s W.C. Fields and Me, with Rod Steiger and Valarie Perrine.