Hollywood has been making films based on Richard Matheson's fiction for more than 50 years. His novel I Am Legend produced not one but three flicks, and the latest adaptation of his work—Real Steel—opens Friday.
Now 85, Matheson has teamed up with his son and agent to shop his massive (and profitable) library of fiction around to major studios, with one caveat: if you want to make Matheson movies, you make them Matheson's way.
Matheson is no stranger to the Hollywood game. He's written for shows like Amazing Stories, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Night Stalker, and his movie credits include Jaws 3 and Somewhere In Time. His son Richard Christian Matheson—or "R. C."—is also a prolific Hollywood writer, having done work on everything from Hunter to The Incredible Hulk.
Now the father-son team, with the help of former William Morris agent Alan Gasmer, is thinking bigger, offering Matheson's library of more than 150 short stories, novels, scripts and plays to a film studio that's going to play ball the Matheson way.
"As we all know, most of the films that were made turned out wonderfully, but there were enough cases where they didn't," said R.C. Matheson. "He wanted to have more involvement going forward, not only with the writing but bring a produceral influence, as well."
The Mathesons are offering both individual projects and a peek at the whole body of work, with the condition that they have a say in who writes—if they're not writing themselves, that is—who produces and who directs. If buying a writer's entire canon seems like an overstep, keep in mind that it's been done before. Universal locked down first looks at every one of thriller legend Robert Ludlum's books a few years back, and bought the film rights to superspy character Jason Bourne outright.
For Matheson, it's as much about sound business decisions as it is about making quality adaptations of his work. As he says, "there's nothing sadder than a badly done film."
Though it seems like Matheson's work—which includes everything from straight sci-fi to horror and everything in between—would be a goldmine to any studio executive, Gasmer said many of them just look at it as a lot of reading (which is probably a sign that they didn't want that studio in the first place).
"It's a little frustrating when you go into a studio and you do bring in the volume of the material here and they look at you with blank eyes and say, 'There's a lot of material to go through,' " Gasmer said. "For a business that's supposed to thrive on creative ideas and reading, nobody actually does that. That's ironic. We have to guide them through it. Richard and R.C. are very good at doing that."
It seems like it's only a matter of time before we see any number of new Richard Matheson flicks. In the meantime, the writer recommends Real Steel.
"I thought it was great," Matheson said. "They hit all the right things with it. They gave it heart.
"Films are a very creative field," Matheson added. "A good movie is a thing of wonder. When it's done well, it makes such a big difference."