Peter Werner, Oscar Winner and ‘Moonlighting’ Director, Dies at 76

Peter Werner, the Oscar-winning director known for his television work that spanned five decades and included helming episodes of such popular series as Moonlighting, A Different World, Justified and Law & Order: SVU, has died. He was 76.

Werner died Tuesday morning in Wilmington, North Carolina, his younger brother, Tom Werner (producer on The Cosby Show, Roseanne, That ’70s Show, The Conners), told The Hollywood Reporter. “He had a torn aorta that the doctors weren’t able to repair. So sudden,” he wrote in an email.

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As a student project while attending the American Film Institute, Peter Werner directed the 1976 short film In the Region of Ice, which was based on Joyce Carol Oates’ short story and starred Fionnula Flanagan. The project won the Oscar for live-action short film.

His career kicked off from there, with Werner helming a 1977 episode of Family. The ABC drama counted Mike Nichols and Aaron Spelling as executive producers.

Werner went on to direct a long list of TV projects across various genres. Among the series for which he directed multiple episodes were Moonlighting, starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd; The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World; the Jennifer Love Hewitt procedural Ghost Whisperer; the Patricia Arquette-led Medium; Justified; Elementary; UnREAL; Blue Bloods; and Grimm.

Born in New York on Jan. 17, 1947, Werner earned his B.A. from Dartmouth College and his M.A. from Antioch University before picking up his MFA from the AFI.

Werner earned four Emmy nominations, the first in 1986 for Moonlighting, followed by recognition for his work on the telefilms LBJ: The Early Years (1987), Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story (1995) and Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy (2006). He also received a Peabody Award for LBJ and three DGA Award noms during his career as well.

Other TV movies that counted him as director included I Married a Centerfold (1984) featuring Tim Daly; Two Mothers for Zachary (1996) starring Valerie Bertinelli and Vanessa Redgrave; an adaptation of Alex Haley and David Stevens’ Mama Flora’s Family (1997) that starred Cicely Tyson; the Tate Donovan-led Tempting Fate (1998); and the Whoopi Goldberg holiday title Call Me Claus (2001).

Werner’s series directing work also included episodes of The Wonder Years, Nash Bridges, Grounded for Life, No Ordinary Family and The Blacklist. More recently, he helmed multiple installments of CBS’ Bull, History’s Six and NBC’s Law & Order: SVU.

Among his TV producing credits were Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy and TNT’s Jennifer Beals-led series Proof.

Additionally, he directed the features Don’t Cry, It’s Only Thunder (1982), featuring Dennis Christopher; Prisoners (1983), with Tatum O’Neal; and No Man’s Land (1987), which counted Law & Order mastermind Dick Wolf as screenwriter and Charlie Sheen as star.

In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife, Kedren, and children Lillie, Katharine and James.

Mike Barnes contributed to this report.

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