Gloria Katz, ‘American Graffiti’ screenwriter and ‘Star Wars’ script doctor, dies at 76

Candy Clark, left, Charles Martin Smith and Ron Howard in a scene from the 1973 film "American Graffiti."
Candy Clark, left, Charles Martin Smith and Ron Howard in a scene from the 1973 film “American Graffiti.”
(Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Hollywood screenwriter Gloria Katz — who co-wrote “American Graffiti” and helped give Princess Leia her power in “Star Wars” — has died. She was 76.

Willard Huyck, Katz’s husband and longtime collaborator, told the Hollywood Reporter that she died Sunday, their 49th wedding anniversary, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after battling ovarian cancer.

The couple shared an Oscar nomination with director George Lucas for “American Graffiti” and secretly doctored his script for “Star Wars.” The Reporter quoted Katz as saying they shaped Carrie Fisher’s Leia into someone who “can take command,” not “just a beautiful woman that schlepped along to be saved.”


They also wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which Lucas executive produced, and later co-wrote “Lucky Lady,” “Messiah of Evil,” “French Postcards,” “Best Defense,” “Howard the Duck,” and “Radioland Murders.”

Born in Los Angeles on Oct. 25, 1942, Katz majored in English at UC Berkeley, then earned a master’s in film at UCLA. In 1969, she married Huyck, a college friend of Lucas at USC.

The Reporter quoted Katz as saying in a 2017 interview that Lucas wanted her husband “to write about cruising for ‘American Graffiti,’ and I sort of came with the package.”

She said Lucas had “a lot of reservations” about his “Star Wars” script as filming was about to begin.

“He said, ‘Polish it — write anything you want and then I’ll go over it and see what I need,’ ” she said. “George didn’t want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence.”

Katz said she and Huyck tried to add as much humor as possible and wrote about 30% of the film’s dialogue.


Katz was on the board of the Writers Guild of America, was an advisor at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open next year, and served as chair of the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles.

Survivors include their daughter, Rebecca.