Melissa Marie Mathison was born on June 3, 1950, and died on November 4, 2015 from neuroendocrine cancer.
She was an American film and television screenwriter and an activist for Tibetan freedom.
Melissa was best known for writing the screenplays for the films The Black Stallion (1979); E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), for which she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay; and Kundun (1997), a biographical-drama film about the Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet.
Melissa was born on June 3, 1950 in Los Angeles, California, one of five siblings.
Her father, Richard Randolph Mathison, was a journalist, the Los Angeles bureau chief of Newsweek.
Melissa mother was Margaret Jean “Pegeen” Kieffer Mathison, a food writer and convenience–foods entrepreneur.
After completing high school, Mathison attended the University of California, Berkeley.
Her family were friendly with Francis Ford Coppola, whose children Gian-Carlo, Roman and Sofia, Mathison would babysit.
Coppola offered her a job as his assistant on The Godfather Part II, an opportunity for which she left her studies at UC Berkeley.
With Coppola’s encouragement, Melissa wrote a script for The Black Stallion, adapted from the novel, that caught the attention of Steven Spielberg.
Melissa knew the Dalai Lama since 1990 when she wrote the script for Kundun, and she developed a lasting friendship with him from that time on.
She continued to work as an activist for Tibetan freedom and was on the board of the International Campaign for Tibet.
From 1983 to 2004, Melissa was married to Harrison Ford, serving as a stepmother to his two children.
Melissa passed away on November 4, 2015 in Los Angeles at the age of 65 from neuroendocrine cancer.