Wilmington native Don Payne, writer for ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Thor,’ passes away

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Wilmington native Don Payne, whose credits as a writer in Hollywood include “The Simpsons” and “Thor,” has passed away.

A graduate of New Hanover High School, Payne won four Emmy awards for his work on “The Simpsons” before writing the screenplay for the movie “Thor,” released in 2011.

Payne’s accomplishments were recognized with a star on the Wilmington Walk of Fame in 2005, along with an exhibit at Cape Fear Museum, which featured items lent by Payne including one of his Emmys, animation cells from “The Simpsons” episode that earned him that award, and other memorabilia from “The Simpsons” and his days at New Hanover High School.

Payne’s Walk of Fame recognition includes a picture frame displayed inside The Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington (See picture below). According to a program included in that display, Payne also received a Paul Selvin Award for “The Simpsons” episode “Fraudcast News,” which aired in 2002.

He was also nominated for multiple awards and wrote episodes for TV shows “Hope & Gloria,” “Pride & Joy,” “Men Behaving Badly” and “Veronica’s Closet,” among others. His feature film credits include “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Thor: The Dark World,” which is set to be released later this year.

Payne’s star in the Wilmington Walk of Fame plaza outside the Cotton Exchange. Photos by Jonathan Spiers.

Mike Scully, who worked with Payne on “The Simpsons” as executive producer, acknowledged Payne’s death on Twitter last night.

“Great Writer, Sweet Guy, Gone Way Too Soon,” Scully tweeted. “RIP Don Payne.”

Payne graduated from New Hanover High in 1982 and served as senior class president, according to his Walk of Fame program. “His mother and his grandparents were also NHHS graduates,” it reads.

“During his high school years, he was actively involved in local theater, performing in numerous productions at Thalian Hall, as well as acting in and directing plays as part of the Hanover Thespians, his school’s drama club,” the program continues. “He attended his first two years of college at UNC Chapel Hill, and then transferred to UCLA to attend film school,” where he earned a bachelor of arts in film and television and a master of fine arts in screenwriting, it says.

The program adds that Payne lived in Los Angeles with his wife Julie and their sons Nathaniel and Joshua.

According to website Deadline Hollywood, Payne had been battling cancer.

Payne’s star can be seen in the Walk of Fame plaza in the Cotton Exchange parking lot, facing Water Street.

Jonathan Spiers is a reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at (910) 772-6313 or jonathan.s@portcitydaily.com. On Twitter: @jrspiers

A display inside the Cotton Exchange shows memorabilia and photos from Payne’s Walk of Fame induction ceremony.