Gregory Allen Howard, Legendary Screenwriter, Has Died
Gregory Allen Howard, screenwriter for Remember the Titans and Ali, has died at the age of 70.
Legendary screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard has passed away at age 70 following a brief illness, per Slash Film. Howard is most well-known for penning powerful screenplays that told Black stories, starting with his break-out film Remember the Titans in 2000, starring Denzel Washington. The screenwriter’s most recent feature was Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monáe, and Glass Onion’s Leslie Odom Jr.
Remember the Titans was Gregory Allen Howard’s big break as a screenwriter. He wrote the script at the same time as he was brushing up on a draft of Ali, a film that would be produced the next year about the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. When Howard learned about the story of a Black coach leading the football team to victory in a newly integrated Virginia school, the writer had to put Ali on hold to pen the script. Luckily for him, the film was quickly snatched up by producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Remember the Titans not only made history as Gregory Allen Howard’s first script, but the film was the first ever spec sale script written by a person of color that would lead to more than $100 million at the box office. As Howard paved the way for future POC writers, he continued to write films about important Black historical figures, using his craft to tell stories that had often been previously overlooked in a whitewashed industry.
Ali was Gregory Allen Howard’s next film, starring Will Smith in one of the actor’s earliest dramatic roles. Although the film earned mixed reviews from critics, with most of the complaints around wishing the film took a less serious approach to Ali’s story, Ali was still nominated for the 74th Academy Awards, earning Smith his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
As the story goes for most Hollywood writers, most of Gregory Allen Howard’s scripts were left unmade, including a World War II story the writer wrote with Morgan Freeman. The unfinished project followed the true story of the 761st Tank Battalion, nicknamed the “Black Panthers,” named for their panther logo and the fact that most of the soldiers in the crew were Black soldiers.
Gregory Allen Howard also collaborated with Alien director Ridley Scott in a project titled Factor X, which followed the law enforcement officers who pursued the serial killer Dennis Rader, aka “BTK.” The project got as far as attaching Troy’s Eric Bana and Crash’s Terrence Howard, but eventually, like the Black Panthers project, the movie got scrapped.
Gregory Allen Howard’s most recently finished film was the biopic that followed the great abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery. Harriet was directed by Kasi Lemmons and starred Cynthia Erivo as the titular character. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards, including for Erivo’s portrayal of Harriet Tubman, and won six awards from Women Film Critics Circle.
Before Gregory Allen Howard’s death, the writer completed the script for three upcoming projects currently in the works. Rise follows the true story of a school janitor who led the basketball team to victory, Night Witches is about a women’s aviator unit in World War II, and The Magician is a biopic about the African American quarterback Marlin Briscoe.