The author of ''What Dreams May Come'' takes us through his other works, including ''The Twilight Zone'' and ''Duel''
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A tour of fantasist Richard Matheson’s movies

However strange the landscapes in the new Robin Williams metaphysical fantasy What Dreams May Come, it’s all familiar territory to Twilight Zone contributor Richard Matheson, whose 1978 novel inspired the film. During his nearly 50-year career as an author and screenwriter, Matheson, 72, has routinely ventured into barely imaginable realms, from Somewhere in Time‘s turn-back-the-clock romance to the sinister Duel.

Lately Matheson has been enjoying a renaissance. A film adaptation of his 1954 sci-fi novel, I Am Legend, is in development (reportedly with Arnold Schwarzenegger), and writer-director David Koepp (The Trigger Effect) is shooting a movie version of his 1958 murder mystery, A Stir of Echoes, with Kevin Bacon. But Matheson draws the line at rumors of a Somewhere sequel. ”Fans send in story ideas,” he offers from his Calabasas, Calif., home, ”but there would be no way to do it.” Here he reflects on dreams of his that have already made it to the screen.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957; Matheson adapted his 1956 novel The Shrinking Man.) A radioactive mist turns a man microscopically small. ”For its time, it was quite unique. I wrote a sequel [not Lily Tomlin’s 1981 comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman] where his wife joins him and they start to grow again. It was okay up to then, but I should have left them microscopic. Thank heavens it was never made, though the studio kept the big pencils and everything.”

The Twilight Zone The best known of Matheson’s 14 episodes are ”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” from his story about a man who spots a gremlin on a plane, and ”The Invaders,” in which a woman is menaced by miniature spacemen. ”’Invaders’ moved a little slow. Bill Shatner was fantastic in ‘Nightmare.’ But the creature looked like an overgrown panda.”

The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man (1964 and 1971; adapted from I Am Legend.) A plague wipes out civilization, except for Matheson’s hero — Vincent Price in Earth, Charlton Heston in Omega Man — and the mutants out to get him. ”People call the book a classic, but they’ve never filmed it as I wrote it. As good as Price was in the Edgar Allan Poe pictures I wrote [like 1960’s House of Usher], he was miscast [in Earth]. Omega I didn’t even recognize.”

Duel (1971; adapted by Matheson from his 1971 story.) Dennis Weaver’s run-in with a trucker turns into the road movie from hell. ”It was Spielberg’s first movie. The producer told me they were sticking me with some young (then 24-year-old) hotshot director nobody knew, so I was floored. It’s such a simple idea — but done with extraordinary skill, and it works.”

Somewhere in Time (1980; adapted by Matheson from his 1975 novel Bid Time Return.) Christopher Reeve journeys via hypnosis back to 1912 for a star-crossed romance with Jane Seymour. ”It was mis-marketed and the critics lambasted it, but now everybody tells me, ‘I love that film.’ There’s a fan club dedicated to it. But Chris Reeve’s agent was horrified. He had just made Superman, and for him to agree to do this dinky little love story…

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