Screenwriter who helped polish the script of Star Wars

Born: October 25, 1942;

Died: November 25, 2018

GLORIA Katz, who has died aged 76, was an Oscar-nominated Hollywood writer and director known for her longtime collaboration with George Lucas. She co-wrote his 1973 coming-of-age comedy film American Graffiti and helped with the script on Star Wars.

Often working with her husband and fellow writer Willard Huyck, the couple met through friends in the 1960s when they were both film students at UCLA and befriended Lucas.

The couple shared an Oscar nomination with Lucas for American Graffiti and secretly doctored his script for Star Wars. Katz has said they helped shape Carrie Fisher’s Star Wars character princess 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 produced, and later co-wrote Lucky Lady, Messiah of Evil, French Postcards, Best Defence, and Howard the Duck, which was produced by Lucas.

Born in Los Angeles on October 25, 1942, Katz majored in English at the University of California, Berkeley, then earned a masters in film at UCLA. In 1969, she married Huyck, a college friend of Lucas at the University of Southern California.

Katz said in 2017 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 percent of the film’s dialogue.

They also helped with the character of Leia, convincing him to make her tougher. “She can take command," said Katz. "But at the same time she’s vulnerable . . . instead of just a beautiful woman that schlepped along to be saved.”

When the film came to be made, the couple did not think the production was going well. “George was very depressed,” said Katz. “The whole production was very wrought with drama. Nobody had ever done any of this stuff before; the special effects weren’t working, the English crew were very unsympathetic towards George. He wasn’t getting what he wanted on screen—the technology wasn’t there for him. We kept telling him, ‘It’s going to be wonderful, George!’ no matter what it looked like, to try and cheer him up.”

Huyck and Katz later worked with Lucas again on his other franchise starring Harrison Ford, collaborating on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Katz was on the board of the Writers Guild, was an adviser at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is due to open next year, and served as chair of the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles. The couple's last film together was Radioland Murders, the 1994 crime drama starring Mary Stuart Masterson.

Katz's survivors include their daughter, Rebecca.