Terry Southern, a novelist and screenwriter whose credits included “Dr. Strangelove” and “Easy Rider,” two films that crystallized the anger and unease of the 1960s, died on Sunday at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. He was 71.
The cause was respiratory failure, said his son, Nile.
Southern spelled out his artistic credo in an interview in 1964. “The important thing in writing,” he said, “is the capacity to astonish. Not shock - shock is a worn-out word - but astonish. The world has no grounds whatever for complacency. The Titanic couldn’t sink, but it did. Where you find smugness, you find something worth blasting. I want to blast it.”
He pursued those aims most notably in the two screenplays that brought him and his co-writers Academy Award nominations. He was a co-author, with Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, of the biting anti-nuclear satire “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), a black comedy about military folly that ends in Armageddon.
In “Easy Rider” (1969), Southern and two of the film’s stars, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, created a screenplay about two drug-fueled dropouts who travel cross-country by motorcycle, ostensibly in search of the American dream.
Southern’s books included the novel “Candy,” which he wrote jointly with Mason Hoffenberg.