Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Scripting movies

Scripting movies — Six famous authors, including William Faulkner, Sam Shepard, and Martin Amis, who have penned screenplays

Posted on

With new adaptations of Of Mice and Men, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hollywood seems obsessed with the works of literary giants. But what happens when famous authors try their hand at screenplays? Here are six who should have stayed between the covers:

Literary Achievement: Wrote The Sound and the Fury and won the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Movie: Land of the Pharaohs (1955), cowritten with two others. Less a pulse-pounding epic than a treatise on Egyptian architectural techniques.
Defining Moment: Bitchy wife (Joan Collins) gloats to cohort: ”With Pharaoh dead, let Hamar learn what he can, for then I shall rule in Egypt.”
Silver Lining: He originally went into screenwriting in the ’30s for the money and worked on Pharaohs only as a favor to director Howard Hawks.

Literary Achievement: Introduced the term catch-22 into the lexicon with his satirical 1961 novel by the same name
Movie: Sex and the Single Girl (1964), cowritten with two others. A comedy in which much mirth is made of the revelation that a know-it-all shrink (Natalie Wood) is a virgin.
Defining Moment: Edward Everett Horton, that lovable prig of countless ’30s musicals, plays a smut-minded scandal-sheet publisher.
Silver Lining: This assignment was probably less humiliating than the 1962 McHale’s Navy episode he wrote.

Literary Achievement: Received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1978 play Buried Child
Movie: Zabriskie Point (1969), cowritten with four others. A legendary hippie folly from Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni.
Defining Moment: A disgusted flower child (Daria Halprin) imagines the explosion of the ostentatious house of a real estate pig (Rod Taylor).
Silver Lining: Brian De Palma swiped the ending nine years later for his equally ridiculous The Fury.

Literary Achievement: Anticipated the cyberpunk movement with his chilly, apocalyptic novels and short stories
Movie: When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), for which he received story credit only. A silly schlocker pitting excellent stop-motion monsters against scantily clad Playmates.
Defining Moment: Before the obligatory tribal catfight, a woman taunts her rival with inexplicable shouts of ”Necro undula necro! Akita!”
Silver Lining: His name is misspelled (J.B.) in the opening credits.

Literary Achievement: Wrote London Fields, which was a contender for Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize
Movie: Saturn 3 (1980), an inept thriller set on an outer-space research facility, where psycho (Harvey Keitel) creates a robot that stalks beautiful scientist (Farrah Fawcett)
Defining Moment: Keitel: ”You have a great body. May I use it?” Fawcett: ”I’m with the major.” Keitel: ”For his personal consumption only?”
Silver Lining: His 1985 novel, Money, contains familiar characters like actress Butch Beausoleil, described as ”not just a dumb blonde.”