Born Stoyan Tesich, September 29, 1942, in Uzice, Yugoslavia; died followinga heart attack, July 1, 1996, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. Screenwriter and playwright. Steve Tesich is best remembered for his Academy Award-winning screenplay Breaking Away (1979). Tesich was born in war-torn Yugoslavia and immigrated to the United States with his family around 1955. Breaking Away wasbased on Tesich's own experience growing up in Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University, and tells of the rivalry between the college students and the"townies" of Bloomington. "The film's idyllic portrayal of a middle-Americantown, its lovable, idiosyncratic American characters and its sense of a dreambeing achieved," wrote Bruce Weber in the New York Times, "were very much the product of a grateful writer who felt himself to be a welcomed outsider."
Tesich attended Indiana University (his tuition was covered by a wrestling scholarship), majored in Russian literature, and moved on to Columbia University to obtain his master's in 1967. He began playwrighting while living in NewYork, and the first of his dramas, "The Carpenters," was produced in 1970. During the 1980s he turned largely to writing for films and produced the scripts for Eyewitness (1981), The World According to Garp (1982), and Eleni (1985). Many of his films reflect his belief in the basic decency of American society and in the strength of American values. He also wrote a novel, Summer Crossing (1982).
Tesich's plays after 1989, however, were less optimistic than his scripts ofthe 1980s. "The Speed of Darkness" (1989), "Square One" (1990) and "On the Open Road" (1992) all reflect a much darker vision of America than had been characteristic of Tesich's early work. "The American failure to intervene in theYugoslav conflict affected him deeply," declared a writer for the London Times; "it was as though the fractured world of his childhood had come full circle." His most recent work, "Arts and Leisure," closed in New York in June, 1996.