WILMINGTON — Peter Werner, Emmy-nominated TV director who won a Best Short Film Oscar in 1977, died suddenly on March 21, 2023 in Wilmington, NC from heart complications following a torn aorta. He was 76.
Born in New York City in January 1947, Werner graduated with Masters degrees in education and documentary filmmaking. He started off as a VISTA Volunteer in downtown Detroit before co-founding a Quaker high school in Deerfield, MA. While teaching in Vermont, he met Frances Flaherty, widow of Robert Flaherty, known as the father of the documentary film.
She became Werner’s friend and mentor, and he made a documentary about her that aired on PBS. It was produced by Werner’s younger brother, Tom Werner, who went on to become a top TV comedy producer behind such hit series as The Cosby Show, That ’70s Show, Roseanne and The Conners as well as co-owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club.
Peter Werner’s American Film Institute student film In the Region of Ice, which he wrote and directed based on the short story by Joyce Carol Oates, screened at the New York Film Festival and earned him an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, shared with Andre R. Guttfreund.
Since then, Werner directed documentaries, a slew of TV movies and miniseries, episodic television and pilots, including that for Nash Bridges.
“I will deeply miss Peter’s wry sense of humor, and the goodness that filled his soul,” Nash Bridges creator Carlton Cuse said. “He was a terrific director and an even better human being.”
Werner’s extensive TV series directing credits include Ghost Whisperer, Medium, A Different World, The Wonder Years, Moonlighting, Boomtown, Justified, Grimm, UnReal, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, Elementary, Unforgettable, Six and Law & Order: SVU.
“Peter was a terrific director who did many of the seminal episodes of Moonlighting, most famously the ‘black and white episode’, otherwise known as ‘The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice’, said Moonlighting and Medium creator Glenn Gordon Caron. “He was a great friend, a good man and a gentle soul.”
In the span of his career, Werner was nominated for four Emmy and three DGA Awards. He won an ACE cable Award for the HBO film, The Image, starring Albert Finney, and a Peabody for NBC’s LBJ: The Early Years, which also earned him an Emmy nomination.