Michael Blake, who has died of cancer at the age of 69, was a writer whose novel Dances With Wolves became a hit film that earned him an Academy Award for the screenplay. He wrote the book at the urging of his longtime friend Kevin Costner at a time when he was short of money. The novel, a US Civil War epic about an Army lieutenant who befriends a Native American tribe, was unsuccessful at first, but became a film after Costner asked Blake to adapt it.
Blake had befriended Costner when he was a relatively unknown actor. He spent several years living out of his car and on friends’ couches while he wrote the novel. It went on to sell 3.5m copies after the success of the film, which Costner starred in, produced and directed. It won seven Academy Awards, including one for Blake for best adapted screenplay.
Blake passionately championed many causes, including literacy, Native American history and the disappearing of wild horses in the West, said his wife, Marianne Mortenson Blake. The couple met through the actor Viggo Mortensen, a close friend of Blake’s and Mortenson Blake’s cousin. They married in 1993 and had three children, all of whom they named after notable Native Americans.
Blake was born in North Carolina and lived with his family in Texas before settling in southern California. He attended the University of New Mexico but left before graduating. The university now has an archive of his work.
Blake’s business partner Daniel Ostroff is now working with Mortenson Blake on bringing to life the sequel to Dances With Wolves, The Holy Road.
Michael Blake, writer: born Fort Bragg, North Carolina 5 July 1945; married Marianne Mortenson (three children); died Tucson, Arizona 2 May 2015.
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