Bettina Gilois, ‘Bessie’ Screenwriter, Dies at 58
Art and Experience:
Hollywood screenwriter and author Bettina Gilois died Sunday night in her sleep after battling cancer, her friend Joshua Plant confirmed to Variety. She was 58.
Gilois wrote the HBO film “Bessie” starring Queen Latifah, and numerous other films and books.
Before her death, Gilois had several projects in the works, including the drama “Shutter Spy,” about Hollywood photographer Frank Worth, and the series “Muscle Shoals,” which is produced by Johnny Depp. She was also writing a story for Lifetime about Mahalia Jackson, and Netflix’s “A Million Miles Away,” a true story about Jose Hernandez, a migrant worker who later became an astronaut.
Her credits include Disney’s “McFarland, USA” with Kevin Costner, “Glory Road” starring Josh Lucas and Lifetime’s “The Lost Wife of Robert Durst.” She was nominated for a Emmy for writing “Bessie” and “McFarland, USA.”
Among its accolades, “Bessie” won an NAACP Image Award for writing for film (TV) and was nominated for the Black Reel Award for best screenplay. She was also nominated for the Humanitas Prize and an ESPY Award.
Initially, she worked with Joel Silver Productions, writing for producers, directors and actors such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Mann, Robert Zemeckis, Nick Nolte, Michael Douglas, Queen Latifah, Nicolas Cage, Robert DeNiro and Christian Bale. She also has uncredited writing on “The Mists of Avalon” with Anjelica Huston and Golden Globe-winning picture “The Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington.
Gilois got her start in Hollywood as an assistant to “Liquid Sky” director Slava Tsukerman, and worked at Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York on the series “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes.” She then worked with Keith Barish and Arnold Kopelson Productions as a development executive, producing “Fire Birds” and “Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole.”
She wrote several books, including “Billion Dollar Painter: The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light,” “Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia” and “Bleeding Beverly.” All three of her novels will be made into movies.
She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in art history and recently was an assistant professor of screenwriting at Chapman University. She also taught at St. John’s College in Santa Fe and Hofstra University.
Gilois is survived by her son, Caliber, and daughter, Shiloh.