Award-winning writer and producer Don Payne died at home Tuesday, at age 48, according to the LA Times. Payne had been suffering from bone cancer, says John Frink, a friend and former writing partner.
A Wilmington, N.C. native, Payne graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in screenwriting. He had intended to work in the movie industry, but Frink was interested in television. Happy with finding work in any medium, the pair got their first writing job on the 1995 sitcom “Hope & Gloria.”
They continued finding work in sitcoms, including “Men Behaving Badly,” “Veronica’s Closet,” and “The Brian Benben Show,” before they joined the writing staff at “The Simpsons” in 1998. With the show, he won four Emmy Awards.
Payne was able to eventually make the jump to writing for film with 2006’s “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” He followed that movie by writing the screenplay for “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” In a 2006 interview, Payne said, “Much to my wife’s chagrin, I am a superhero geek.” He proved that further as a writer of the screenplay for “Thor.”
Even with his big screen writing career, Payne continued as a consulting producer on “The Simpsons.” He was even able to keep writing for the show. Two of his episodes are currently in production to air next season, including the holiday installment, “White Christmas Blues.”