Peter Werner, Oscar winner who directed ‘Moonlighting,’ ‘Law & Order: SVU’ dead at 76

Peter Werner, who won an Academy Award for a 1976 short film and later became a prolific director of television series such as “Moonlighting” and “Law & Order: SVU,” died Tuesday. He was 76.

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Werner died in Wilmington, North Carolina, from heart complications after suffering a torn aorta, Deadline reported.

Werner’s younger brother, Tom Werner, confirmed the cause of death in an email to The Hollywood Reporter.

“He had a torn aorta that the doctors weren’t able to repair,” Tom Werner wrote. “So sudden.”

Born in New York City on Jan. 17, 1947, Peter Werner graduated with master’s degrees in education and documentary filmmaking, according to Deadline. After co-founding a Quaker high school in Deerfield, Massachusetts, Werner was teaching in Vermont when he met Frances Flaherty, the widow of venerable documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty.

That led to his 1976 short film, “In the Region of Ice,” which was based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, Parade reported. According to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, the film was screened at the New York Film Festival and earned him an Academy Award for best live-action short, which he shared with Andre Guttfreund.

Peter Werner was nominated for four Emmy Awards: in 1986 for “Moonlighting,” “LBJ: The Early Years” (1987), “Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story” (1995) and “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” (2006), according to The Hollywood Reporter. He also received a Peabody Award for “LBJ: The Early Years,” and was nominated for three Directors Guild of America Awards.

Werner directed episodes of “The Wonder Years,” “Nash Bridges,” “Grounded for Life,” “No Ordinary Family,” “The Blacklist,” “Bull,” “Six” and “Law & Order: SVU,” according to

Werner’s television movie directing credits included “I Married a Centerfold” (1984), “Two Mothers for Zachary” (1996), “Mama Flora’s Family” (1997), “Tempting Fate” (1998) and Call Me Claus (2001), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I will deeply miss Peter’s wry sense of humor, and the goodness that filled his soul,” “Nash Bridges” creator Carlton Cuse said, according to Deadline. “He was a terrific director and an even better human being.”

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