Joseph Stefano

Joseph William Stefano (May 5, 1922 – August 25, 2006) was an American screenwriter, best known for adapting Robert Bloch's novel as the script for Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho, and for being the producer and co-writer of the original The Outer Limits TV series.[1][2]

Joseph Stefano
Joseph William Stefano

(1922-05-05)May 5, 1922
DiedAugust 25, 2006(2006-08-25) (aged 84)
OccupationScreenwriter, producer, director
Spouse(s)Marilyn Epstein (1954–2006)

Early years

Stefano was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a teenager, Stefano was so keen to become an actor that he dropped out of high school two weeks before graduation and traveled to New York City. In Manhattan he adopted the stage name Jerry Stevens.

Stefano's initial career was as a composer of pop music in the 1940s, writing songs for Las Vegas showman Donn Arden. In possession of a large collection of sheet music, he once spent five hours challenging pianist Michael Feinstein on names of obscure Tin Pan Alley songs.

Career as screenwriter, producer and director

Stefano began writing movie scripts in the late 1950s, firstly for Martin Ritt with The Black Orchid (1959); his father was a tailor, and his mother made silk flowers and this was an influence on the screenplay.

Stefano was commissioned by Alfred Hitchcock to adapt Robert Bloch's novel Psycho (1960) for the screen. His work was recognized by the Mystery Writers of America when he was given a 1961 Edgar Award, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Stefano appears briefly onscreen, discussing Bloch's utilization of the basis of the character Norman Bates in the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, in the documentary "Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield", which can be found on Disc 2 of the DVD release of the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).

Stefano was also offered the job of scripting Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964), but was already committed to produce and write for his friend Leslie Stevens' science fiction television anthology series The Outer Limits. Both Stefano and Stevens were involved only during the first season of the show. In the book Writing with Hitchcock, Stefano said that Hitchcock held a grudge over his being unavailable to write the screenplay for Marnie.

After leaving the series due to network interference and exhaustion, Stefano wrote and directed The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre (1964; aka The Haunted), a film utilizing many of the crew responsible for The Outer Limits. The thriller Eye of the Cat (1969) and the comedy Futz (1969) were Stefano's last big-screen jobs for many years. Throughout the 1970s, he wrote many television films such as Revenge! (1971), A Death of Innocence (1971), Home for the Holidays (1972), Live Again, Die Again (1974), Aloha Means Goodbye (1974) and Snowbeast (1977). Stefano also wrote one episode for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) entitled "Skin of Evil". Stefano was one of the Guests of Honor at the 1974 NY Telefantasy Convention (along with Noel Neill, Jim Danforth and William Tuttle), and spent hours signing autographs for hundreds of Outer Limits fans. At the show, he expressed his surprise that so many people still remembered the series almost a decade after its cancellation.

In 1990, he revisited the characters from Psycho with the TV movie script for the prequel, in what he believed had become an increasingly disappointing series of films. Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) posits the origins of Norman Bates' destructive mother-love, featuring Olivia Hussey as Mrs. Bates. Stefano wrote and executive produced the Al Pacino drama Two Bits (1995), a personal project that fared poorly at the box-office and with critics, leaving Stefano less than enthusiastic about continuing to write for modern Hollywood. Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho (1998) followed Stefano's script punctiliously, and in the biopic Hitchcock (2012), about the making of Psycho, he is portrayed by Ralph Macchio.

Stefano died of a heart attack at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, in 2006.

The Outer Limits

Stefano was a producer for the first season of The Outer Limits and wrote a total of 12 episodes. They are:

The last episode was originally a pilot for a proposed TV series called The Unknown, but after ABC rejected it, Stefano reworked it as the season one finale.


Feature films

1958Anna of BrooklynYes
1959The Black OrchidYes
1961The Naked EdgeYes
1969Eye of the CatYes
1987The KindredYes
1988BlackoutYesYesAlternate title: The Attic
1990Psycho IV: The BeginningYes
1995Two BitsYesYes
1998PsychoYesRemake of 1960 film

Television films

1964The UnknownYesYesTelevision pilot
The Ghost of Sierra de CobreYesYesYesTelevision pilot
A Death of InnocenceYes
1972Home for the HolidaysYes
1974Live Again, Die AgainYes
Aloha Means GoodbyeYes
1990Psycho IV: The BeginningYes

Television series

1959General Electric TheaterYesEpisode: "Hitler's Secret"
Episode: "The Committeeman"
1960StartimeYesEpisode: "The Young Juggler"
The DetectivesYesEpisode: "Life in the Balance"
Episode: "The Bad Eye of Rose Rosetti"
Episode: "Song of Songs"
1962Saints and SinnersYesEpisode: "Source of Information"
1963The Lloyd Bridges ShowYesEpisode: "A Game for Alternate Mondays"
Mr. NovakYesEpisode: "First Year, First Day"
1963–64The Outer LimitsYesYes12 episodes (writer); 32 episodes (producer)
1971Marcus Welby, M.D.YesEpisode: "False Spring"
1988Star Trek: The Next GenerationYesEpisode: "Skin of Evil"
1990Swamp ThingYesYes2 episodes (writer); 13 episodes (producer)


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