Laird Koenig, who adapted his novel for the screenplay to the 1976 cult film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, a controversial horror thriller starring a teenage Jodie Foster, has died. He was 95.
Koenig died June 30 of natural causes in Santa Barbara, Jamie Dixon, the son of Koenig’s frequent writing partner, Peter L. Dixon, told The News84Media.
Koenig also received a writing credit on three films directed by Terence Young: Red Sun (1971), starring Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Alain Delon and Ursula Andress; Bloodlines (1979), starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara and James Mason; and Inchon (1981), starring Gazzara, Laurence Olivier and Jacqueline Bisset.
His 1970 novel The Children Are Watchingco-written with Dixon, was turned into the French film Attention Les Enfants Regardent (1978), starring Delon.
Taken from his 1974 novel — his first as a solo author — The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane starred Foster as a 13-year-old who lives by herself in a home in New England and tries to keep a family secret hidden from a creepy guy (Martin Sheen) poking around. Foster had just been seen in Taxi Driver and Bugsy Malone.
Directed by Nicolas Gessner, the film premiered at Cannes in 1976 but because of a rights dispute did not make it to theaters until 1977. Because of Foster’s age, some objected to a nude scene between her character, Rynn Jacobs, and co-star Scott Jacoby, but it turned out the actress’ older sister, Connie Foster, had doubled for her.
Koenig, wrote Imran Khan on PopMatters.com in 2016, had a “real knack for exploring the inner world of children with daring and sensitivity. [He] managed to capture this with an exactitude that is rare nowadays. His children are often sagacious incarnates of adults you may know — level-headed thinkers who can keep cool under pressure. Sometimes they are sociopaths. Many times, they are relegated to the margins of society where they are left to fend for themselves among prying, often dangerous, adults.”
Laird Philip Koenig was born in Seattle on Sept. 24, 1927. He attended the University of Washington and worked in advertising in New York before coming to Los Angeles in the 1960s.
Dixon asked Koenig to help him out with episodes of Flipperand they teamed on seven episodes of the adventure series during the show’s three seasons (1964-67) and on one 1970 installment of another NBC show, The High Chaparral.
Koenig co-wrote the screenplay for The Cat (1966), starring Roger Perry and Peggy Ann Garner, then landed on Broadway in 1969 with The Dozens. The play, which starred Al Freeman Jr., Morgan Freeman (in one of his first major roles) and Paula Kelly, lasted just four performances, however.
His 1978 novel The Neighbor become Killing ‘Em Softly (1982), a drama featuring George Segal and Irene Cara, and he wrote the adapted screenplay for Tennessee Nights (1989), starring Julian Sands.
Koenig’s other novels included the 1980’s Islands1981’s Rockabye — adapted for a 1986 telefilm starring Valerie Bertinelli — 1983’s The Disciple and 2012’s Morning Sun: The Story of Madam Butterfly’s Boy.
Survivors include his niece, Lisa, and nephew, Mark.
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