West News Wire: Gregory Allen Howard, a talented screenwriter who adapted historical Black characters’ stories for “Remember the Titans,” starring Denzel Washington, “Ali,” starring Will Smith, and “Harriet,” starring Cynthia Erivo, has passed away. He was 70.
According to a statement from his spokesperson Jeff Sanderson, Howard passed away on Friday at his home in Miami following a brief illness.
When “Titans” hit that mark in 2000, Howard became the first Black screenwriter to pen a drama that earned $100 million at the box office. It told the true story of a Black coach who joined a newly integrated school in Virginia and inspired the football team to victory. I don’t care if you like each other or not, it said, in an iconic statement. However, you shall regard one another.
Howard said he shopped the story around Hollywood with no success. So he took a chance and wrote the screenplay himself. ″They didn’t expect it to make much money, but it became a monster, making $100 million,” he said. “It made my career,” he told the Times-Herald of Vallejo, California, in 2009. The film made the Associated Press’ list of the best 25 sports movies ever made.
Howard followed up “Remember the Titans” with “Ali,” the 2002 Michael Mann-directed biopic of Muhammad Ali. Smith famously bulked up to play Ali and was nominated for a best actor Oscar.
Howard also produced and co-wrote 2019′s “Harriet,” about abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Erivo lead a cast, that included Leslie Odom Jr., Clarke Peters and Joe Alwyn.
“I got into this business to write about the complexity of the Black man. I wanted to write about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Marcus Harvey. I think it takes a Black man to write about Black men,” he told the Times-Herald.
Born in Virginia, his family moved often due to his stepfather’s career in the Navy. After attending Princeton University, graduating with a degree in American history, Howard briefly worked at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street before moving to Los Angeles in his mid-20s to pursue a writing career.
He wrote for TV and penned the play “Tinseltown Trilogy,” which focused on three men in Los Angeles over Christmastime as their stories interconnect and inform each other.
Howard also wrote “The Harlem Renaissance,” a limited series for HBO, “Misty,” the story of prima ballerina Misty Copeland and “This Little Light,” the Fannie Lou Hamer story. Most recently, he wrote the civil rights project “Power to the People” for producer Ben Affleck and Paramount Pictures.
He is survived by a sister, Lynette Henley; a brother, Michael Henley; two nieces and a nephew.