Don Payne dies at 48; ‘Simpsons’ writer and producer

Don Payne, an award-winning writer and producer of “The Simpsons” and screenwriter of the 2011 blockbuster “Thor” as well as “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles, said his friend and former writing partner John Frink. He was 48 and had bone cancer.

Payne was most recently a consulting producer on “The Simpsons,” Fox’s long-running animated series. Two episodes he wrote are in production and will air in the fall: “Labor Pains” and the Christmas installment, “White Christmas Blues.”

Payne won four Emmys for his work on the series and also received the Writers Guild of America’s Paul Selvin Award in 2005 for the “Fraudcast News” episode.

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He made the transition to screenwriting with “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” the 2006 comedy starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson about a bachelor who discovers his girlfriend is a superhero.


“Much to my wife’s chagrin, I am a superhero geek,” Payne told The Times that year. “Definitely growing up I was into comics and became a comedy writer as an adult, so I put the two things together.”

Born May 5, 1964, in Wilmington, N.C., Payne received his bachelor’s degree in film and television and a master’s in screenwriting from UCLA. He intended to write movies until he began collaborating with Frink out of college. “I wanted to do films, he wanted to do television,” Payne told The Times in the 2006 interview.

They decided to work in whatever medium they first got a job. So they ended up writing for “Hope & Gloria,” “The Brian Benben Show” and other sitcoms. The two joined the writing staff of “The Simpsons” in 1998 and became part of the producing team in 2000. Among the nine episodes they wrote together were “Insane Clown Puppy,” “The Bart Wants What It Wants” and “Old Yeller-Belly.”

Payne is survived by his wife, Julie; their sons, Nathaniel and Joshua; their daughter, Lila; his mother, Barbara Payne; a brother, John Payne, and a sister, Suzanne Fanning.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Friday at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles.