Frequently Asked Questions: Movies
I saw there will be a movie made of THE HUSBAND. Do you have reason to hope Hollywood will get it right this time? They’ve screwed up your stuff before, you know. –Ian, London
They have? They have screwed up film adaptations of my books? Really? What books? When? Who? Trixie is shaking her head. No, she says. No. She seems to be saying you’re wrong, Ian. She seems to be saying you’re thinking of another writer. I don’t recall any films ever being made from my books, especially not WATCHERS or HIDEAWAY or THE SERVANTS OF TWILIGHT. Trixie puts a paw on my arm and gives me a very solemn stare. She has a very commanding stare, a very deep stare. I feel so relaxed staring into Trixie’s eyes. I feel so at peace. No, Ian, you must be wrong. THE HUSBAND will be the first feature film ever made from one of my novels. And I’m very happy with the people who have acquired the rights. I have every reason to think this will be a brilliant film and that even if Hollywood had screwed up my films in the past (which seems to be your bizarre fantasy), this would make up for everything that went before. I’m dealing now with people of substance and taste. Don’t look for it in theaters next week, of course. They have to develop a screenplay –and these are people whose artistic aspirations are high–so THE HUSBAND won’t be in front of a camera for quite some time yet. But it now does seem as if I’ll live long enough to see a first-rate film based on one of my books.
THE FACE presents a very funny but dark view of movie actors. Have you ever met any nice ones?—Kevin, New York
In my experience, Porky Pig is not a bad guy, and while Donald Duck is excitable, he’s got a good heart. Kermit the Frog is a sweetie. Fame is potentially as corrupting as power, but in fact I have met a few nice actors in addition to Porky and Donald and Kermit. The kindest and classiest was Peter O’Toole, who had a role in PHANTOMS. I wrote the screenplay for PHANTOMS. The filmmakers realized some—but not all—of the scenes well. The movie was overall a disappointment for two reasons—an inadequate budget and the production company’s desire to emphasize creepiness, attenuating scenes at the cost of action and forward-motion suspense. The director was talented but apparently not that interested in discussing character motivation with the cast, so some of the actors called me to discuss their roles. Some wanted wholesale dialogue changes that would have made their characters seem stupid or incoherent. By contrast, Peter called to ask if he could drop just one conjunction and elsewhere add a comma—and he had an elegant explanation for doing so. In another call from London, a few weeks later, he started reading the dialogue of all the characters in the scenes that involved him. He made no comments, just cited page numbers and read dialogue, hopping through the script. He has that brilliant voice, all the technique of the finest stage actor, and listening to him can cast you into a pleasant kind of trance. After about five minutes I interrupted to say, “Peter, I’m sorry. I’m dense. I’m hopeless. I know you expect me to hear something inconsistent about your character, something that needs fixing, but I’m not getting it.” He said, “No, no, dear boy. There’s nothing wrong with this dialogue. In fact, it’s marvelous. I just wanted you to hear how wonderfully it flows as written.” I was stunned. Peter O’Toole was one of the finest actors of his generation, rich and famous, yet here he was taking time to call me from London to let me hear my dialogue being properly delivered. I said sheepishly, “Oh. Well—go ahead.” And he did, for about another ten minutes. Most actors with many fewer achievements than Peter’s are too full of themselves to be capable of such a kindness. By the time the film was shot and edited, I realized that he knew some of the other actors would “massage” their dialogue until much of the wit was squeezed out of it and that the private reading he did for me would be the only time that I would hear all the lines in major scenes delivered to their full effect. That was such a kind and decent thing to do, the act of a gentleman.
I haven’t read anything about you commenting on the film (title censored) being nearly identical to your novel, INTENSITY. As far as I know, the filmmaker has given you no credit. What do you have to say about that? — Sandra, Colorado
My snail-mail newsletter (well, it’s really Trixie’s, as she has more space in some issues than I do) has run an item on this matter in two issues, under the title THE RIP-OFF MOVIE. I’ll quote the piece in its entirety here: “Many readers have been writing to inform Dean that a recent movie, which we aren’t going to promote by naming it, ripped off the first half of INTENSITY. Initially the director of this bloody and inept film denied having read the book, but later acknowledged that part of it might have been “inspired” by INTENSITY. In the past, Dean has been aggressive about plagiarism and has succeeded in every action he has taken against every plagiarist. In this case, a win appeared inevitable, but he decided to ignore the offense because he found the film so puerile, so disgusting, and so intellectually bankrupt that he didn’t want the association with it that would inevitably come if he pursued an action against the filmmaker. Maybe the lesson is that if you’re going to steal from Dean’s work, you better make your version as disgusting and misanthropic, as full of loathing for humanity, as you can; then you might get away with it!”
What movie star would you most like to see in the film version of one of your books? — Ken, Chicago
Denzel Washington. I am a nut for Denzel Washington. MAN ON FIRE, TRAINING DAY, REMEMBER THE TITANS…I’ve seen MAN ON FIRE maybe four times. The only reason Denzel Washington does not have a dozen Oscars on his mantel is the same reason that Cary Grant never won any at all: He is such a natural, with such born grace, that his performances seem to come too easily to him, as if he’s tossing them off–which he is not; he is subtle and cerebral–as opposed to the often strenuous and even exhausting performances of someone like Dustin Hoffman. David Thomson, in his authoritative THE NEW BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF FILM makes a convincing argument that Cary Grant remains the “best and most important actor in the history of cinema.” Especially in films that are not primarily–or at all–concerned with racial issues, that are instead about universal human values and about the spiritual core of humankind, Washington is as riveting and convincing as Grant. Unfortunately, at 51, he is too old to play the leads in many of my books, but he would be great as Spencer Grant, the protagonist of DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART, as Ethan Truman in THE FACE, as Travis Cornell in a quality film version of WATCHERS (as opposed to the deeply moronic versions so far made)… But I know enough about the film industry to be sure there is no chance whatsoever that such a blissful intersection of actor and material will ever occur for me, not in my lifetime.
My father and I would like to know if the movie based on your book INTENSITY will ever be available on video. I would like to buy it from you if possible. –Robert, Canada
I’ve received thousands of inquiries like yours. I have no idea why Sony or Lions Gate, or whoever owns video rights to this project, has not issued it on DVD. Because it was a miniseries, it was too long to present on a single videotape; however, it would easily fit uncut on a single disc. I possess a master tape of it, but I do not own the film rights anymore, and cannot sell copies made from my master. But I do have a portfolio of really cute baby pictures of myself for which I am willing to entertain offers.
Was Ben Affleck truly “The Bomb in Phantoms, yo?”(Jason “Jay” Derris & Robert “Silent Bob” Blutarsky,Leonardo, NJ)
I couldn’t take my eyes of Joanna Going. Was Ben in that movie? Fact is, Ben and a lot of good people were in it — not least of all Peter O’Toole, a great guy — and it drove me crazy how the suspense would be cranked up in one scene and vitiated in the next. I’m sure it made Ben nuts, too, though he was able to go straight from our little project to a huge hit! I have written about the painfulness of film adaptation, and some day I will write much about my bizarre experiences on this one.
I won’t get on an airplane without a Dean Koontz novel (Odd Thomas is next). On a recent flight, I read Ticktock and absolutely loved it. If you were allowed to cast the film adaptation of the book, who would you cast in the role of “Deliverance Payne”? (Marty Grosser, Editor, Previews)
That’s tough. She’s such a hoot. If you could cross a young Goldie Hawn with a young Katherine Hepburn, that would be it. Of those are current actresses of whom I’m aware, there are some who are tomboy sexy and sufficiently smartass, but I can’t think of one who combines those qualities with the killer intelligence and drop-dead sophistication that Deliverance also embodies. Suggestions?
If they make a movie of VELOCITY, Ralph Cottle has to be played by Harry Dean Stanton. Were you thinking of him when you wrote the part? Is Harry Dean Stanton alive? Do you know who I mean–Harry Dean Stanton? Can you write back and answer me? I’d really like to know. Will there be a movie? With Harry Dean Stanton? –Roger, New York
Two words, Roger–less caffeine. You might want to adjust your sugar consumption, too. I wasn’t consciously thinking of Harry Dean Stanton, the great character actor, when I wrote Ralph Cottle, but you’re absolutely right. My friend Stephen Tolkin, the wonderful screenwriter, said the same thing when he read the novel. And it would be perfect casting. I do believe Stanton, a superb character actor, is alive and well. I did recently sign a film option for the rights to VELOCITY, and the producer is planning a revolutionary approach to the material that I’m not permitted to discuss at this time. It’s so revolutionary, in fact, that he might never get it off the ground in the way he hopes, but he’s been solid in the past, and he’s a doer. No matter what, they won’t be filming the project tomorrow. They don’t even have a script yet. And besides the need to cast, film, and edit it, a lot of time is needed to make all that popcorn and get it to theaters.