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10 Writers Who Have Also Participated in Movies

Updated on April 10, 2017

Cinema was considered a lesser form of entertainment when it first appeared. Today, after the meaningful movies made by filmmakers like Coppola or the artistic madness created by David Lynch, it seems difficult to believe this was the case, but we have to understand the context. At first, the cinematic art was relegated to the likes of circus and pornography because of the simple storylines and sensationalist image tricks that it featured. However, intellectuals and scholars soon began to study the narrative of cinema. From Russian formalism (LINK 1) to professional critics like Siskel and Ebert, more and more people with a vast range of knowledge became interested in this unappreciated discipline.

Even writers, who practise a well-considered form of art, started to wonder how they could experiment with the innovations that celluloid brought, and rejected the elitist considerations about movies. That´s why they began to get involved in the making of films and introduced complex themes and new forms of narration into this underdeveloped art.

10. Stephen King

Anyone who knows the work and biography of this popular author shouldn’t have problems to relate his figure to film. After all, he is the most adapted modern writer of all time (LINK 2), and the extensive amount of movies based on his work are among the most loved… and hated, as we will see, of them all. But, putting aside all of his adaptations, there is an original film directed by this author that astounded audiences because of its poor quality.

We are talking about Maximum Overdrive, which was advertised as “Stephen King done right” (LINK 3) and as a scary and personal product. After quite a group of bad Stephen King movies, his fans were demanding a feature film that successfully developed the narrative devices that made the author so popular. Instead, the millions of people that watched the movie felt a huge disappointment when they found out how clichéd and bad written it was. This entry is the perfect example of the symbiosis between celluloid and literature gone wrong, and the main reason Stephen King decided to stay away from film direction (LINK 4).

9. Clive Barker

Here we have another case of a horror writer who is related to cinema. Perhaps the developers of such an underrated genre knew from the get-go how popular culture could also feature high-quality stories that talked about subjects that any person could relate to. Barker´s books are not about spooky houses or abhorrent spectres, but about the darker corners of human subconscious. Hellraiser, his most celebrated work, is a perfect example.

After a decade that saw the rise and decadence of horror icons like Jason and Freddy, the movie that adapted his novel was a breath of fresh air. Directed and scripted by Barker himself, the film told the story of a family that had to overcome the temptations of Hell… and their sick creatures. It explored themes like sin and desire, which weren’t very common in the 80’s slashers, and its special effects are still impressive today. Though he directed a few more movies, the writer became disenchanted with celluloid because of the uncountable sequels to his masterpiece (LINK 5). The relevant themes the original featured? Completely forgotten. He found out that many commercial films only focus on the gore.

8. Ayn Rand (LINK 6)

This author has published some of the most polemic, hated and unique novels and essays in the history of English language. The struggle of this libertarian writer was a political one, so it should come as no surprise that she tried to divulge her views to the larger masses. That´s why she became invested in cinema and sold the rights to some of her books: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

We will focus on the first one for the simple reason that she wrote the script. One would think that this was enough to grant a faithful adaptation, but her work was systematically altered by studio interference (LINK 7). Her convictions were toned down by the producers, some of the scenes had to be changed, the final speech was unmercifully cut… In the end, she also became disappointed with the creative possibilities of cinema, and focused only on her books. Considering the quality of the film, celluloid lost many potential masterpieces.

7. Yukio Mishima (LINK 8)

This japanese writer also had controversial ideas, and also participated in one of his works’ adaptation. He directed the movie Patriotism, based on a short story about a soldier who commits seppuku after a failed revolt. It wasn’t a huge success, but it anticipated the most important chapter in Mishima’s life (LINK 9).

This writer, who completely despised the post-imperial Japan, felt that his life had fallen into a hole of emptiness, and decided to make his demise a masterpiece. That´s why he announced it not only with his heartbreaking tale, but with this equally touching adaptation. Kishima decided to exploit the possibilities of cinema as an accessible vehicle to spread his message to a wider audience. One could argue that the apology of Imperial Japan wasn’t exactly a very beneficial message, but the effort to adapt it for modern audiences was really meritorious.

6. Jorge Luis Borges (LINK 10).

As important as this authors are, no one can compete with the relevance and influence of Borges, one of the fundamental writers of the 20th century. Though he never wrote a single novel, he published numerous short stories and essays in which he showed to the world his complex but appealing style.

He also wrote scripted a decent number of avant-garde movies that took inspiration from cinematic movements like the french Nouvelle vague and that, incomprehensibly, are still overlooked today. It is a shame that astounding films like Invasion or The Spider’s Stratagem haven’t yet managed to claim their rightful place as some of the most interesting pieces of art ever conceived behind a camera.

5. J.K.Rowling (LINK 11)

This ultra-popular writer earns her rightful spot on the list because of how recent her interest in film is. She is widely regarded as the author of the famous Harry Potter books, which spawned a series of film adaptations watched and loved by audiences all around the world. However, she didn’t get directly involved in the making of films until she wrote the script of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, another adaptation of one of her works.

Despite some bad reviews (LINK 12), this charming script won the hearts of the audiences (LINK 13), and it managed to retell a mediocre book in a satisfactory way. This could become the quintessential example of a movie being better than the book, and it happened because of this versatile author.

4. Gabriel García Márquez

Like Borges, this author was one of the most important creators of the last century. His realistic but mesmerizing stories have granted him a well-deserved fame among his thousands of readers. As a modern artist, he understood that the elitist prejudices against celluloid were unfounded, and that he could tell great stories with a film crew and a good script.

In his younger years, he wrote the script of several movies, like The Golden Cockerel (LINK 14) or Time to Die (LINK 15), which are pretty obscure nowadays but are really interesting to the modern audiences because of his subversions of cinematic genres like western and drama. This is an undeniable evidence of the things that writers can do with cinema: he took something that was old and decadent, but made a masterpiece out of it. I think it’s called art.

3. Michael Crichton (LINK 16)

The name of this author is not a specially remembered one, but some of his works have shaped the entire popular culture of the 20th and 21th Century. Jurassic Park, his most celebrated novel, is indisputably the most obvious case, but some of his cinema scripts have proven themselves relevant over the years.

Let’s take Westworld for an example: though this movie didn’t age very well, the world of cinema and TV wouldn’t have been the same without the ideas it introduced. This futuristic western was an important inspiration to The Terminator, and a prototype for the dinosaur-filled adventure. But, arguably, the most relevant aspect of this picture is that it inspired the homonymous TV series that is giving the Internet so much food for thought: all the cult following it attracted wouldn’t exist today without this underrated author.

2. Raymond Chandler (LINK 17)

Raymond Chandler reaches such a high spot in the list because he is probably one of the main reasons behind the succesful transition of noir fiction from novels to films. After all‚ he understood perfectly the mechanisms and devices behind this type of stories‚ so it comes as no big surprise that he knew how to adapt his own books to the big screen.

This author's dark and sordid books like The Big Sleep or Farewell‚ My Lovely‚ were specially fit to be told in Black-And-White films with some of the finest actors of the 1940s and‚ arguably‚ they were better treated in this form of media. Perhaps that is the reason that he was eager to write some scripts for cinema, and that he was so professional at it: films like The Blue Dahlia (LINK 18) or Double Indemnity (LINK 19) helped to establish and develop the important tropes of the genre, and to introduce avid readers to a new form of entertainment as well.

1.Alejandro Jodorowsky (LINK 20)

We will finish with the rare example of a writer who is best credited for his filmmaking career. Although he is regarded as the author of novels such as The Dance of Reality or comic books like The Incal, his fame comes from the experimental works that he directed in the 1970s. These films are among the most important features of cinema, and pushed the boundaries for the feats that cinema could achieve.

Jodorowsky caught the eye of famous figures like John Lennon or other artists of unappreciated disciplines like Alan Moore. Alejandro himself gave visibility to film as a surrealistic and complex experience. Perhaps this was the defining moment of this list: the moment when Jodorowky’s movies became a reclame for his novels, instead of the other way around. Perhaps this is the moment when the Seventh Art was crowned as an independent form of creation by critics and audiences alike.











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    • wilhb81 profile image

      Rayno Pon 5 months ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      Hi Maximo,

      Love your hub and to be honest, I only knew 3 of the authors that you've mentioned above participated in movies.

      PS: Stan Lee, the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics, also frequently get involved in most of the Marvel Comics' movies as well.