Benedict Fitzgerald, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ Co-Screenwriter, Dies at 74

Benedict Fitzgerald, co-screenwriter of “The Passion of the Christ,” died Jan. 17 in Marsala, Sicily, after a long illness, his cousin Nancy Ritter told Variety. He was 74.

Fitzgerald co-wrote 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” with director and producer Mel Gibson. The biblical epic remains the highest-grossing independent film of all time.

Fitzgerald first received acclaim for his screenplay adaptation of the Flannery O’Connor novel “Wise Blood,” which he co-wrote with his brother Michael. Michael and Kathy Fitzgerald produced the John Huston-directed film, which starred Brad Dourif, Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty.

“Wise Blood” marked the beginning of Fitzgerald’s many literary adaptations, including 1993’s “Zelda” with Natasha Richardson and Timothy Hutton, and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1993), starring John Malkovich. He wrote the miniseries adaptations of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1996) and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” (1998), starring Patrick Stewart as Captain Ahab. Both series were nominated for several Emmy Awards.

Born March 9, 1949 in New York, Fitzgerald was the second child of Sally Fitzgerald, known for editing “The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor,” and Robert Fitzgerald, a poet and translator whose translations of Homer, Virgil and Sophocles are considered definitive to this day. Though he was raised in Italy, Fitzgerald attended boarding school in Rhode Island and graduated from Harvard University in 1972. He married Karen Mason in 1991.

Fitzgerald is survived by his wife; daughters Eugenie, Helena and Olimpia; and three grandchildren, as well as his siblings Ughetta, Maria, Michael, Barnaby and Caterina.

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