10 Writers Who Have Also Participated in Movies

Updated on November 30, 2017

When it first appeared, cinema was considered a lesser form of entertainment. Today we live in a world of meaningful movies made by filmmakers like Coppola and artistic madness like that of David Lynch, and that attitude has changed. It seems difficult to believe that people really thought films were inferior, but we have to understand the context. The first popularly available films covered subjects like circus acts and pornography (because of the simple storylines and sensationalist images). However, intellectuals and scholars soon began to study the narrative of cinema. From Russian formalism to professional critics like Siskel and Ebert, more and more people with a great deal of artistic and literary knowledge became interested in this then-unappreciated discipline. Even writers (who practiced a highly-regarded form of art) started to wonder how they could experiment with the innovations of celluloid and rejected the elitist disdain for movies. That´s why authors began to get involved in filmmaking 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 finding his connections in film. After all, he is the most adapted modern writer of all time, and incredible number of films based on his work are among the most loved and hated films, as we will see, of all time. But, aside from all of his adaptations, there is an original film directed by King himself that astounded audiences with its poor quality.

We are talking about Maximum Overdrive, which was advertised as “Stephen King done right” and as a personal horror film of his own creation. After a number of bad Stephen King movies, his fans were demanding a feature film that successfully developed the narrative devices that made this author so popular. Instead, the millions of people who watched Maximum Overdrive found only disappointment when they realized out how clichéd and bad written it was. The perfect example of the symbiosis between celluloid and literature gone wrong, this film was the main reason Stephen King decided to stay away from film direction afterwards.

9. Clive Barker

Here we have another case of a horror writer with connections to cinema. Perhaps the major figures in such an underrated genre had ideas from the start about how popular culture could feature high-quality stories that talked about subjects that any person could relate to (and be terrified by). Barker's books are not about spooky houses or abhorrent specters, but about the dark corners of the human subconscious. Hellraiser, his most celebrated work, is a perfect example.

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

8. Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand has published some of the most polemic, hated and unique novels and essays in the history of the 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 because she wrote the script herself. Her intimate involvement in the project would lead viewers to expect a faithful adaptation, but in reality her work was systematically altered by studio interference. Her convictions were toned down by the producers, some of the scenes were changed, and the final speech was unmercifully cut. In the end, Rand also became disappointed with the creative possibilities of cinema and focused only on her books. Considering the quality of her one film, many potential masterpieces were lost.

7. Yukio Mishima

This Japanese writer also had controversial ideas, and also participated in one of his works’ adaptations. 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; his own attempted revolt and suicide.

This writer, who completely despised post-imperial Japan, felt that his life had fallen into a hole of emptiness, and decided to make his death a masterpiece. That´s why he announced it not only with his heartbreaking tale, Patriotism, but with its equally touching film adaptation. Mishima 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 valuable.

6. Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was one of the fundamental writers of the 20th century who enjoyed a great deal of relevance and influence in society. Though he never wrote a single novel, he published numerous short stories and essays where he showed the world his complex and 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 and The Spider’s Stratagem haven’t yet managed to claim their rightful place as some of the most interesting pieces of art ever played out behind a camera.

5. J.K.Rowling

This ultra-popular writer earns her rightful spot on the list because of how recent her interest in film is. She is widely popular as the author of the famous Harry Potter series, 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, this charming script won the hearts of the audiences, 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, Márquez was one of the most important creators and artists of the last century. His realistic but mesmerizing stories have granted him a well-deserved place as a favorite among his thousands of readers. As a modern artist, he understood that the elitist prejudices against film 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 and Time to Die, which are pretty obscure nowadays but are still interesting to modern audiences because of his subversions of cinematic genres (like western and drama). His works are undeniable evidence of the great things writers can do with cinema: he took old and decadent genres and made a masterpiece out of them.

3. Michael Crichton

Some of Crichton's works have helped shape popular culture during the 20th and early 21th Century. Jurassic Park, his most celebrated novel, is indisputably a popular iconic work, but some of his other scripts have proven themselves relevant over the years as well.

Let’s look at Westworld as 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 Crichton's later dinosaur-filled adventures. 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 right now: the cult following it attracted wouldn’t exist without his original script.

2. Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler reaches #2 in this list because he is probably one of the main reasons noir fiction as a genre was able to successfully make the transition from novels to films. He understood perfectly the mechanisms and devices behind this style of storytelling‚ 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 and Farewell‚ My Lovely‚ were especially suited to be told in black and white films with some of the finest actors of the 1940s and‚ arguably‚ the stories appeared to even better advantage in this form of media. Perhaps that is the reason Chandler was eager to write scripts for cinema, and that he was so polished at it: films like The Blue Dahlia and Double Indemnity helped to establish and develop the important tropes of the genre, and to introduce avid readers to a new form of entertainment.

1.Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a rare example of a writer who is best credited for his filmmaking career. Although he is author of novels such as The Dance of Reality and comic books like The Incal, his fame stems predominantly from the experimental works that he directed in the 1970s. These films are among the most important in all of cinema. They pushed the boundaries of what cinema could achieve.

Jodorowsky caught the eye of famous figures like John Lennon and artists of unappreciated disciplines like Alan Moore alike. Alejandro himself gave visibility to film as a surrealistic and complex experience. Jodorowky’s novels became a remake of his movies 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 8 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.

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