'Get Shorty' and 'Out of Sight' Author Elmore Leonard Dies at Age 87
An adaptation of the novel The Swtich is on the way with John Hawkes, Yasmin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Will Forte, Isla Fisher and Tim Robbins starring, but author Elmore Leonard won't be around to see one more of his books hit the big screen. The New York Times reports that the author behind such novels as Get Shorty, Out of Sight, The Big Bounce, Jackie Brown and 3:10 to Yuma, all of which became major motion pictures, has passed away at his home in Michigan at the age of 87. But despite his books serving as inspiration for so many films, Leonard was never really a big fan of the adaptations themselves. Read on.
In fact, as the newspaper points out, Leonard would often pan the film adaptations with great comic effect, even the more popular and successful films like Get Short and Out of Sight. The paper recalls, "His first novel, The Big Bounce, was filmed twice, in 1969 and 2004. After seeing the first version, he declared it to be 'at least the second-worst movie ever made.' In a much-told anecdote, he said that once he saw the remake, he knew what the worst one was." Harsh words, but the author clearly felt like the best medium for his work was the page. However, that didn't stop his influence on film.
Quentin Tarantino, who directed Jackie Brown, told Creative Screenwriting:
"Well, when I was a kid and I first started reading his novels I got really caught up in his characters and the way they talked. As I started reading more and more of his novels it kind of gave me permission to go my way with characters talking around things as opposed to talking about them. He showed me that characters can go off on tangents and those tangents are just as valid as anything else. Like the way real people talk. I think his biggest influence on any of my things was 'True Romance.' Actually, in 'True Romance' I was trying to do my version of an Elmore Leonard novel in script form. I didn't rip it off, there's nothing blatant about it, it's just a feeling you know, and a style I was inspired by more than anything you could point your finger at."
Though Leonard might have been a stickler for his work being turned into filmed entertainment, he wasn't completely hard to please. His short story Fire in the Hole was turned into the series "Justified" on FX. Leonard wholly approved of how the show had turned out, and even wrote his 45th novel Raylan with the series in mind. The novel and series follows Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant in the series), a federal marshal from Harlan County, Kentucky, who presents himself as a good ole country boy but is more than meets the eye.
Leonard's writing has spanned decades, and his influence will be felt in writers and filmmakers for years to come. In what might be one of the most simple but effective pieces of advice to writers out there, Leonard once wrote, "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it." Many authors, screenwriters and more could benefit from just those simple suggestions, and all forms of entertainment would be better for it.