Stephen J. Rivele, Screenwriter on Biopics ‘Nixon,’ ‘Ali’ and ‘Copying Beethoven,’ Dies at 75

Stephen J. Rivele, who shared an Oscar nomination for the screenplay for Oliver Stone’s Nixon and worked on such other biopics as Michael Mann’s Ali, Agnieszka Holland’s Copying Beethoven and Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, has died. He was 75.

Rivele had heart issues and died May 17 at his home in Pasadena, California, his son Eli Bocek-Rivele told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Rivele wrote on Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born and did an early draft for another 2018 release, Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

He also handled uncredited rewrites on the baseball movie Moneyball (2011) and All Eyez on Me (2017), about Tupac Shakur.

Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson enjoyed a 30-year screenwriting partnership. They worked together on Nixon (1995), starring Anthony Hopkins; Ali (2001), starring Will Smith; Copying Beethoven (2006), starring Ed Harris; Miles Ahead (2015), the Miles Davis biopic that Cheadle directed and starred in; Pawn Sacrifice (2014), with Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer; and Birth of the Dragon (2016), starring Philip Ng as Bruce Lee.

Born in Philadelphia on May 6, 1949, Rivele graduated as valedictorian of his class from West Catholic High School. Later, he worked with a Jesuit mission in the Congo, attended the Paris Film Conservatory as the first American student accepted there and studied with French director Éric Rohmer at the University of Paris.

Back home, he founded Philadelphia’s Performing Arts Theater with actor Jon Polito and worked as a staff photographer for the NFL’s Eagles in 1977. His 1990 book, The Plumber, about the mafia in his hometown, was bought by Universal Pictures.

A play he wrote, The Wes and Jane Show, about two Wild West icons, outlaw John Wesley Hardin and sharpshooter Calamity Jane, played at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles in 1989. He was a novelist and poet as well.

Survivors include his sons, Eli and Nicholas; his grandchildren, Lili and Jo; and his partner, Christine.

Donations in his memory can be made to 826 Valencia, a charity focused on children’s literacy and creative writing.

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