Robert James Waller, author of the novel “The Bridges of Madison County” that was embraced by Hollywood through its big screen adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, has died. He was 77.
Waller died early Thursday morning at his home in Fredericksburg, Texas, due to complications of pneumonia and multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, his representatives confirmed to Variety.
Waller was born in 1939, in Rockford, Iowa, and went on to receive two degrees from the University of Northern Iowa (then known as Iowa State Teachers College). In 1968, he received his doctorate degree in business from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington. Later that year, he returned to Iowa to teach management and economics, becoming a full professor by 1977.
By 1992, Waller famously wrote “Bridges” in a mere 11 days. The novel chronicles the wandering National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid. He spends four days wooing Francesca Johnson, a war bride from Italy married to a no-nonsense Iowa farmer. By 1993, the novel reached No. 1 on the New York Times best sellers list, remaining there for over three years.
Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the film adaptation in 1995, which grossed $182 million worldwide. The movie earned his co-star, Meryl Streep, an Oscar nomination for best actress. The story was also brought to the Broadway stage with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. In 2014, the show as nominated for four Tony awards and won two.
After the novel’s success, Weller left his hometown of Iowa and moved to a ranch in Alpine, Texas, 50 miles from the nearest town. He also divorced his wife of 36 years, with whom he had a daughter, Rachel Waller, and married Linda Bow, who worked on the ranches as a landscaper. In 2002, Waller wrote a sequel to the novel entitled “A Thousand Country Roads.”