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Laird Koenig, Writer of Cult Horror Film “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane,” Dies at 95

Laird Koenig, the screenwriter for the 1976 cult film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, a controversial horror thriller starring Jodie Foster (now 60) as a teenager, has died. He was 95. Jamie Dixon, the son of Koenig’s regular writing collaborator, Peter L. Dixon, broke the news to the THR that Koenig died of natural causes on June 30 in Santa Barbara. The writer is survived by his niece, Lisa, and nephew, Mark.

What was Laird Koenig’s legacy in the industry?

Koenig had a widespread legacy in the film industry, and had many works of writing to his name. Terence Young’s films also featured Koenig as a writer: Red Sun (1971), starring Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Alain Delon, and Ursula Andress; Bloodline (1979), starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, and James Mason; and Inchon (1981), starring Gazzara, Laurence Olivier, and Jacqueline Bisset. Laird Philip Koenig was born on September 24, 1927, in Seattle. Before moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s, he attended the University of Washington and worked in advertising in New York. His co-written novel The Children Are Watching, published in 1970, was adapted into the 1978 French film Attention Les Enfants Regardent, starring Alain Delon.

Dixon also requested Koenig to assist him with the making of Flipper, and they worked together on seven episodes of the adventure series throughout the show’s three seasons (1964-67), as well as one episode of another NBC show, The High Chaparral, in 1970. Laird Koenig also ended up co-writing the screenplay for the 1966 film The Cat, which starred Roger Perry and Peggy Ann Garner. In 1969, he wrote the play The Dozens, which starred Al Freeman Jr., Morgan Freeman, and Paula Kelly and only lasted for four performances. Koenig’s 1978 novel The Neighbor was adapted into the 1982 film Killing ‘Em Softly, which starred George Segal and Irene Cara. He also wrote the adapted screenplay for the 1989 film Tennessee Nights, which starred Julian Sands.

What was ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane’ & It’s Controversy?

Source: Prime Video

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, based on his 1974 novel — his first as a single author — starred Jodie Foster as a 13-year-old who lives alone in a New England home and struggles to keep a family secret hidden from a creepy man (Martin Sheen) sniffing around. Foster had recently appeared in Taxi Driver and Bugsy Malone.

The film, directed by Nicolas Gessner, premiered at Cannes in 1976 but did not reach theaters until 1977 due to a rights dispute. Some protested to a naked scene between Foster’s character, Rynn Jacobs, and co-star Scott Jacoby because of her age, but it turned out that the actress’ older sister, Connie Foster, had doubled for her.