Steve Tesich, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who had mixed success in his attempts at play writing, died of a heart attack July 1, while vacationing in Nova Scotia. He was 53.
Tesich won the 1979 Best Screenplay Oscar and the prestigious Writers Guild Award for the bicycle-racers film Breaking Away, and went on to adapt John Irving's The World According to Garp as a Robin Williams film.
Tesich's most recent play, Arts and Leisure, about a disconnected theatre critic, had a brief run at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons this past spring.
The Yugoslav-born author came to the U.S. in 1957 and had his first play, The Carpenters produced at the American Place Theatre in New York in 1971. His relationship with that Off-Broadway institution continued for more than a decade. His plays from this period include Baba Goya (1973 Drama Desk Award as Best Play), Lake of the Woods, Touching Bottom, Passing Game and Gorki.
His Division Street, about a former '60s radical trying to come to terms with contemporary life, was produced at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles before coming to New York in 1980 with John Lithgow and providing Tesich's Broadway debut. His The Speed of Darkness with Len Cariou also was done on Broadway.Tesich's novel, Summer Crossing, was published in 1982. He wrote several TV scripts, including the 1990 TV special, "Bob Fosse's Steam Heat."
Nearly all his works examined the various challenges and joys of being an American -- something Tesich dreamed of becoming when he was a boy in Yugoslavia, and something he attained when he earned U.S. citizenship in 1961.