Bettina Gilois Dies: Award-Winning Screenwriter For ‘Bessie’ And Author Was 58

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Bettina Gilois, an award-winning screenwriter and author, has died in her sleep at age 58, according to a friend. She had an advanced form of cancer and passed just days before her July 9 birthday.

Gilois was having what was described by a friend as “a career year” when she passed, with several projects in development at various networks.

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Gilois first began working as an assistant to Slava Tsukerman, the director of Liquid Sky, in her native Berlin. She also worked at Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York on the television series Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes.

She subsequently joined Keith Barish and Arnold Kopelson Productions as a development executive, which led to producing credits on Fire Birds, as well as Triple Bogie on a Par Five Hole with Amos Poe.

She began her writing career working with Joel Silver Productions, and in the last twenty five years has written projects for further notable producers, directors, and actors, such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Joel Surnow, Michael Mann, Norman Jewison, Joel Silver, Dick and Lili Zanuck, Jeffrey Katzenberg, William Friedkin, Robert Zemeckis, Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Michael Douglas, Queen Latifah, Nicolas Cage, Robert DeNiro, Martin Campbell and Christian Bale.

Her screen credits include the Disney film McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner, directed by Niki Caro, and the HBO film, Bessie, starring Queen Latifah. She also wrote the Disney/Bruckheimer production Glory Road starring Josh Lucas, The Lost Wife of Robert Durst, which aired on Lifetime November 2017.

She also has un-credited writing on The Mists of Avalon with Anjelica Huston, and The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington, for which he won a Golden Globe.

Her awards and nominations for Best Screenplay include an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Writing for Bessie, which also won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing for Film (TV).

She also picked up a nod for Outstanding Writing for Film (feature) for McFarland USA. She was nominated for the Black Reel Award for Best Screenplay for Bessie and honored as part of the filmmaking team of McFarland USA at the MovieGuide Awards. She was also nominated for the Humanitas Prize, the Movieguide Libertas Award, and the Black Reel Awards, as well as the ESPY Award.

She was currently writing the series Muscle Shoals with Johnny Depp producing and Nancy Wilson of Heart composing the music. She was also writing the Mahalia Jackson story for Lifetime Television, and A Million Miles Away, the true story of migrant worker to astronaut, Jose Hernandez, for Netflix.

Her book Billion Dollar Painter: The Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light was published September 9th, 2014, and is currently being made into a movie. Other books include Mi Vida Loca: The Crazy Life of Johnny Tapia, as well as work on Bleeding Beverly for Simon and Schuster, a story about the first African American principal at Beverly Hills High School. All three book projects have garnered film deals.

Gilois is a Columbia University graduate in art history. She was currently an Assistant Professor of Screenwriting at Chapman University and also taught at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and Hofstra University.

Survivors include her son, Caliber, and daughter, Shiloh. A memorial will be held, but no details on it were immediately available.

Friend Robbie Brinkley posted a memorium on Instagram.

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