Colin Higgins

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Colin Higgins
Born (1941-07-28)28 July 1941
Nouméa, New Caledonia, France
Died 5 August 1988(1988-08-05) (aged 47)
Beverly Hills, California, United States
Occupation Director, producer, actor, screenwriter
Years active 1971–1987

Colin Higgins (28 July 1941 – 5 August 1988) was an Australian-American screenwriter, actor, director, and producer. He was best known for writing the screenplay for the 1971 film Harold and Maude,[1] and for directing the films Foul Play (1978) and 9 to 5 (1980).[2]

He is not to be confused with a British actor of the same name who is known to Star Wars trivia buffs as "Fake Wedge" and who died in December 2012.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Higgins was born in Nouméa, New Caledonia, France, to an Australian mother, Joy (Kelly), and American father, John Edward Higgins,[4] one of six sons. Higgins' father enlisted in the army following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and his mother returned to her home in Sydney with Colin and his elder brother. Apart from a brief stint in San Francisco in 1945, Higgins lived in Sydney until 1957, mostly in the suburb of Hunters Hill, attending school at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview.

After moving to Redwood City, California, Higgins attended Stanford University for a year, but then lost his scholarship because he became "obsessed" with theatre.[5] He moved to New York and hung around the Actors Studio but could not find work, so he became a page at the ABC television studios. He lost hope at becoming an actor and enlisted in the US Army, where he was sent to Germany and worked for Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Higgins was discharged in 1965, spent six months in Europe, mostly in Paris, then returned to Stanford University to study a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. While at college he supported himself as an actor, playing in small theatre productions, including acting in a sex farce called Once Over Nightly for a year and a half.


Higgins then earned a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting at UCLA, where his classmates included Paul Schrader. While there he made two short films, Opus One (1968), a satire on student films,[6] and Retreat, an anti-war statement. His M.F.A. thesis would serve as the basis for Harold and Maude (1971).[7]

After graduating he went to work for a wealthy family in Los Angeles as a part-time chauffeur and pool cleaner in exchange for free accommodation, where he met film producer Ed Lewis; Higgins showed a draft of Harold and Maude to Lewis, who then showed it to Robert Evans at Paramount. Higgins wanted to direct the script himself and was allowed to shoot a director's test for $7,000 but Paramount were not sufficiently impressed, and Hal Ashby was hired. Higgins collaborated well with Ashby and both were pleased with the final film, but it was not a large box-office success on original release.

Higgins got an offer to write a Movie of the Week for TV, The Devil's Daughter (1972), which he later described as "just a job".[8] He then received an offer from Jean-Louis Barrault in Paris to turn Harold and Maude into a play for French actor Madeleine Renaud. Higgins did so, working on the French translation with Jean-Claude Carriere, and the play ran for seven years. The film of Harold and Maude continued to run in cinemas around the world, where by 1983 it was in profit.[9]

While in Paris, Higgins met theatre director Peter Brook and worked with him as playwright-in-residence for his company. They did a play about mountain people in Uganda called The Ik which ran in Paris, London and New York.[10]

Higgins then wrote the script for the thriller Silver Streak (1976), which became a hit under the direction of Arthur Hiller. Higgins later said if he had directed it he would have been "a bit less faithful to the writer; I would have slashed away."[11]


The success of Silver Streak enabled him to direct Foul Play (1978). It was enormously popular and launched his directing career.[12]

He then wrote and directed 9 to 5 (1980) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).

Higgins, who was openly gay,[13] died of an AIDS-related death at his home on 5 August 1988[14] and was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.

His brother is Australian actor John Higgins.


Established in 1986, the Colin Higgins Foundation provides support for gay, lesbian and transgender youth. It was established by Higgins following his diagnosis with HIV in 1985.[15]



Year Title
1978 Foul Play
1980 9 to 5
1982 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas


Year Title
1971 Harold and Maude
1973 The Devil's Daughter
1976 Silver Streak
1978 Foul Play
1980 9 to 5
1982 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
1987 Out on a Limb (TV)


Year Title
1971 Harold and Maude
1987 Out on a Limb (TV)


Year Title
1985 Into the Night

Unmade Screenplays[edit]

  • The Man Who Lost Tuesday - a comedy thriller set in Paris[16]
  • First Lady - a satire on politics to star Lily Tomlin[16]


  • Harold and Maude (1972)
  • The Ik (1975)


  1. ^ Lyall, Sarah (August 7, 1988). "Colin Higgins, Film Director, 47, Creator of 'Harold and Maude'". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Colin Higgins; Creator of 'Harold and Maude' Film Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 6 August 1988: 28.
  4. ^ "Colin Higgins". 
  5. ^ David Stratton, 'Colin Higgins', Cinema Papers, December 1982 p 533
  6. ^ "UCLA Screens Student Films", Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 2 May 1968: e10.
  7. ^ "Colin Higgins". 
  8. ^ David Stratton, 'Colin Higgins', Cinema Papers, December 1982 p 534
  9. ^ After 12 Years, a Profit For 'Harold and Maude' By ALJEAN HARMETZSpecial to The New York Times. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 8 August 1983: C14.
  10. ^ Ik,' a Dramatization of 'Mountain People,' Portrays Tribe Lacking Human Emotions By MEL GUSSOW. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 October 1976: 35.
  11. ^ David Stratton, 'Colin Higgins', Cinema Papers, December 1982 p 535
  12. ^ HIGGINS: WRITER-DIRECTOR ON HOT STREAK Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 January 1981: b15.
  13. ^ The Alyson almanac: a treasury of information for the gay and lesbian community. Alyson Publications. 1990. p. 123. ISBN 1-55583-019-6. 
  14. ^ Lyall, Sarah (5 August 1988). "Colin Higgins, 47, Director and Writer of Hollywood Films". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  15. ^ "ABOUT «  Colin Higgins Foundation". Retrieved 2016-05-03. 
  16. ^ a b FILM CLIPS: Hawn On Deck for 'Foul Play' Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 Aug 1977: b6.

External links[edit]