Thursday 14 November 2019

Dances With Wolves author dies

Michael Blake accepts his best adapted screenplay Oscar for Dances With Wolves in 1991 (AP)
Michael Blake accepts his best adapted screenplay Oscar for Dances With Wolves in 1991 (AP)

Michael Blake, the writer whose novel Dances With Wolves became a major big screen hit and earned him an Oscar for the screenplay, has died after a long battle with cancer.

Blake, 69, who died in Tucson, Arizona, wrote several novels but was best known for Dances With Wolves, which he penned while broke at the urging of his long-time friend, actor Kevin Costner.

He spent several years living out his car and on friends' sofas while he wrote the book, which was fairly unsuccessful. But Costner asked Blake to adapt it into a movie and the book went on to sell 3.5 million copies after the success of the film.

Dances With Wolves, a Civil War epic about a US Army lieutenant who befriends a Native American tribe, won seven Academy Awards, including one for Blake for best adapted screenplay.

Despite his success, Blake was a humble man who advocated passionately for many causes, including literacy, Native American history and the disappearing of wild horses in the West, his wife, Marianne Mortensen Blake, said.

"He was probably one of the most generous people I've ever met. He was definitely one of the toughest guys I've ever met," she said.

The couple met through the actor Viggo Mortensen, a close friend of Blake's and Ms Mortensen Blake's cousin. They married in 1993 and have three teenage children, all named after Native Americans. Blake is also survived by his brother, Daniel Webb.

Blake was born in North Carolina and lived with his family in Texas before settling in southern California. He attended the University of New Mexico, but left before graduating. The university now has an archive of his work at the student newspaper and other writings.

His business partner Daniel Ostroff met Blake in 1988 and worked with him on several occasions. He and Ms Mortensen Blake are now bringing to life his novel The Holy Road, the sequel to Dances With Wolves.

"In my experience, great visionary writers like Michael are often ahead of Hollywood and ahead of the audience by a generation. I think the best Michael Blake film adaptations are yet to come," Mr Ostroff said.

PA Media

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