Per The Hollywood Reporter, Katz died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after an extended battle with ovarian cancer. The news was confirmed by her husband and longtime writing partner, Willard Huyck, who stated that Katz unfortunately passed on their 49th wedding anniversary.
Katz's collaborations with George Lucas didn't begin with Indy or Howard. Their partnership began with 1973's American Graffiti, whose script she co-wrote for Lucas and Huyck. The screenplay earned a nomination at the Academy Awards and won prizes from the National Society of Film Critics, as well as the New York Film Critics Circle.
In fact, the period piece about teenagers coming of age in the early '60s was such a smash hit that Lucas asked Katz and Huyck to do an uncredited polish of his script for A New Hope (at the time, it was just called "Star Wars").
"George was writing the script and he had a lot of reservations about it ... He said, 'Polish it — write anything you want and then I'll go over it and see what I need,'" she recalled in a 2017 interview with The Mary Sue. "George didn't want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence."
According to Katz, she and Hyuck wrote around 30 percent of the dialogue for the first Star Wars and helped develop Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) into a "Hawksian woman with all the traits that that woman had: She can take command; she doesn’t take any sh**, but at the same time she’s vulnerable, and to write her as really focused, instead of just a beautiful woman that schlepped along to be saved. For her to be the one that initiated the action. And because Carrie Fisher was so young, the contrast between this young girl and her goals became more poignant."
Born in Los Angeles to a Jewish family in 1942, Gloria Pearl Katz received an English major from UC Berkeley and a master's in film from UCLA (she was originally hoping for a master's in history). She married Huyck in 1969; Huyck had become a good friend of Lucas while the two were at USC together. When Lucas asked Huyck to help with American Graffiti, "I sort of came with the package," Katz said in the aforementioned interview.
This spurred a fruitful partnership that spawned Steven Spielberg's Temple of Doom (one of the films that inspired the PG-13 rating) and Howard the Duck, which Huyck directed. Despite poor critical reception and less-than-favorable box-office returns in 1986, Howard has since become a cult classic.
Katz's other writing credits include Lucky Lady (1975), French Postcards (1979), Best Defense (1984), and Radioland Murders (1994). Prior to her death, she belonged to the board of the Writers Guild of America and served as an advisor to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opens in 2019.
Katz is survived by her husband, Willard, daughter, Rebecca, and brother, Stephen, who served as a cinematographer for movies like The Blues Brothers.