CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

12 Famous Novelists Who Became Hollywood Screenwriters

Original image
Getty Images

Just because an author can write a best-selling and critically acclaimed novel doesn’t necessarily mean he can make the transition to screenwriter. Some novelists who take the leap find success in Hollywood, while others are defeated. Here are 12 popular novelists who tried their hands at screenwriting—and how their attempts fared.

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald / Screenplay: Three Comrades (1938)

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, just one in a mass exodus of novelists trying out a new career in screenwriting. He ended up with just one screenplay credit to his name, for the 1938 film Three Comrades (and even then, the script was heavily rewritten by Joseph L. Mankiewicz). But the Great Gatsby author produced a large number of treatments, re-writes, and screenplay polishes in the Hollywood movie studio system. Fitzgerald’s work was either not used or recognized; most producers and directors considered his work not suitable for the big screen.

Most notably, Fitzgerald worked on the screenplay for Gone With the Wind, but ultimately, the pages he turned in to the film’s producer David O. Selznick were not used or filmed. It was reported that he was instructed to only use the text that was featured in Margaret Mitchell’s novel and not stray away from the original source material. 

2. William Faulkner / Screenplay: The Big Sleep (1946)

In 1932, critically acclaimed author William Faulkner signed a screenwriting contract with MGM Studios that would give him financial stability after his breakthrough novels The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Sanctuary failed to gain commercial success with a mass audience. While he worked on more than 50 films during his 22-year career as a screenwriter for 20th Century Fox and then Warner Bros, Faulkner’s work with Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman on Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep is his most notable. The big-screen adaptation of fellow novelist Raymond Chandler’s book of the same name, the movie is a seminal and important work in the film noir genre.    

3. John Steinbeck / Screenplay: Lifeboat (1944)

Regarded as one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century, John Steinbeck took up a career in Hollywood as a screenwriter after he returned from World War II. He wrote the film Lifeboat for director Alfred Hitchcock in 1943. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Steinbeck demanded his name taken off of Lifeboat because he felt that Alfred Hitchcock introduced an underlying racist quality into the film and he therefore didn't want to be associated with the project.

4. Dave Eggers / Screenplay: Away We Go (2009), Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

New Sincerity movement author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers started a new career as a Hollywood screenwriter in the late 2000s. He co-wrote the Sam Mendes-directed film Away We Go with his wife Vendela Vida, and penned the film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are with director Spike Jonze, both in 2009. As he wrote and edited highly acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction, Eggers also continued to write screenplays for small independent films, including Promised Land with co-screenwriters Matt Damon and John Krasinski for director Gus Van Sant.

5. Nick Hornby / Screenplay: An Education (2009)

British novelist and essayist Nick Hornby is mostly known for his heart-felt books High Fidelity, About A Boy, and How to be Good. In 2009, Hornby took a stab at screenwriting, penning the British coming-of-age film An Education for director Lone Scherfig. The movie stayed close to its source material, a memoir from journalist Lynn Barber about her early life attending Lady Eleanor Holles School. An Education garnered three Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress for Carey Mulligan, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Nick Hornby.

Currently, Hornby is working on adapting Cheryl Strayed‘s bestselling memoir Wild for Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée.

6. Cormac McCarthy / Screenplay: The Counselor (2013)

Cormac McCarthy's novels were the basis for some of the best films produced in the last 10 years, including All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and the Academy Award-winning film No Country for Old Men for directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Earlier this year, the author made his first attempt at an original screenplay, The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott. Although the film was mostly critically panned, The Counselor saw moderate box office success with $60 million in worldwide earnings.

7. Kazuo Ishiguro / Screenplay: The Saddest Music in the World (2003), The White Countess (2005)

Although two of his novels—The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go—were adapted for the big screen, novelist Kazuo Ishiguro didn’t have a hand in writing their screenplays. He did, however, write the original story for Guy Maddin’s masterpiece The Saddest Music in the World in 2003 and the James Ivory film The White Countess in 2005. Though Ishiguro found moderate success as a screenwriter, the 59-year-old author is better known as a well-regarded novelist.

8. Joan Didion / Screenplay: Up Close & Personal (1996), A Star Is Born (1976)

Novelist and literary journalist Joan Didion started a career in screenwriting when she moved to Hollywood with her husband, screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, in the early '70s.  Didion and Dunne worked extensively on the rock musical version of A Star Is Born, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, in the '70s, and also adapted journalist Jessica Savitch’s memoir Up Close & Personal in 1996. In an interview with The Paris Review in 2004, Didion said of screenwriting, "It's not writing. You're making notes for the director—for the director more than the actors." 

9. Truman Capote / Screenplay: Beat The Devil (1953)

In 1953, novelist and playwright Truman Capote teamed up with director John Huston to make a loose film adaptation of Claud Cockburn’s novel Beat the Devil. While John Huston wanted the film to be a parody of The Maltese Falcon, a film that Huston directed a decade earlier in 1941, Beat the Devil was met with a poor critical reception upon its release. However, the late Roger Ebert praised the film, as he put it on his “Great Movies” list. Ebert also recognized the film in the year 2000 as the first “camp” film.

10. Michael Chabon / Screenplay: Spider-Man 2 (2004), John Carter (2012)

Michael Chabon took the plunge into Hollywood screenwriting after film producer Scott Rudin bought the film rights to the Pulitzer Prize and Hugo Award winning novels Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union in the early 2000s. While he was only a consultant on the film adaptations of his novels, Chabon was an author on an early version of Spider-Man 2 for director Sam Raimi in 2004 and Disney’s John Carter in 2009. He once described his attitude toward Hollywood filmmaking as "pre-emptive cynicism.”

11. Raymond Chandler / Screenplay: Double Indemnity (1944)

Crime author and pulp fiction writer Raymond Chandler made the transition from novelist to screenwriter when the critical and commercial success of film adaptations based on his work redefined the film noir genre. Although Chandler’s work on the films The Blue Dahlia and Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train are of note, his collaboration with Billy Wilder on the film noir Double Indemnity earned the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing in 1944.    

12. Ray Bradbury / Screenplay: Moby Dick (1956)

In 1953, sci-fi author Ray Bradbury joined forces with director John Huston to adapt Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick for the big screen. Famously, Bradbury and Huston did not get along during the film’s production due to Huston’s attitude towards the science fiction pioneer’s work. In fact, Bradbury was so traumatized from how he was treated while making Moby Dick that he wrote two fictionalized accounts of the contentious encounters in the novel Green Shadows, White Whale and the short story “Banshee.” Moby Dick would later go over budget and fail to gain an audience when it was released.

Original image
Central Press/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Original image
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 118th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."

Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."

By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

Original image
arrow
Lists
35 Things You Might Not Know About Mister Rogers
Original image

In this episode of our YouTube series, John Green brings you a whole pile of things you should know about everybody's favorite neighbor. Here's a transcript, courtesy of Nerdfighteria:

Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my neighborhood. This is mental_floss, and today we're going to talk about Mr. Rogers, with whom I have a lot in common. By the way, thanks to copyright laws, that's the only picture of Mr. Rogers we can afford, so you'll be seeing a lot of it today. But yes, Fred Rogers and I have many similarities:

1. We both considered becoming ministers (he actually did).

2. Both happily married to women named Sara(h).

And we both make stuff for young people... although I don't think that his work has been banned from several dozen high schools in Tennessee.

[intro music]

3. Mr. Rogers was an Ivy League dropout. He completed his freshman year at Dartmouth, and then transferred to Rollins College so he could get a degree in music.

4. And he was an excellent piano player; not only did he graduate from Rollins "Magna cum laude," but he wrote all of the songs on the show, as well as more than 200 other songs, and several kids' operas including one called "All in the Laundry."

5. Mr. Rogers decided to get into television, because when he saw it for the first time he, "hated it so." When he turned on a set, all he saw was angry people throwing pies in each others' faces, and he vowed to use the medium to make the world a better place.

6. Over the years, he talked to kids about their feelings, covering topics as varied as why kids shouldn't be afraid of haircuts, or the bathroom drain (because you won't fit), to bigger issues like divorce and war.

7. In the opening sequence of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the stoplight is always on yellow. That's a reminder to kids and parents to slow down a little.

8. Also, Mr. Rogers wasn't afraid of dead air time, unlike me: Once he invited a marine biologist and explorer onto his program to put a microphone into his fish tank, because he wanted to show the kids at home that fish make sounds when they eat. However, while taping the segment, the fish weren't hungry so the marine biologist started trying to egg the fish on, saying "C'mon," "It's Chowtime," "Dinnerbell." But Mr. Rogers just waited quietly. The crew thought he'd want to re-tape it, but Mr. Rogers just kept it... to show kids the importance of being patient.

9. Fred Rogers was a perfectionist, and so he disliked ad-libbing. He felt that he owed it to children to make sure that every word on his show was thought out. But here at mental_floss, we love ad libbing because it's much less work.

10. In a Yale psychology study, when Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood went "head to head," kids who watched Mr. Rogers not only remembered more of the story lines, but their, "Tolerance of delay," a fancy term for their ability to wait for promised treats or adult attention, was considerably higher.

11. Mr. Rogers was also beloved by Koko the Gorilla, you know Koko the Stanford educated Gorilla who can speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language; she watched The Neighborhood, and when Mr. Rogers made a trip to meet her, she not only embraced him but she did what she'd always see him do on screen: She proceeded to take his shoes off.

12. Those shoes were store bought, by the way, but every one of the cardigans Mr. Rogers wore on his show was knit by his mother.

13. Today one of them resides in the Smithsonian - a red one. Mr. Rogers chose to donate that sweater, because the cameras at his studio didn't pick up the color very well.

14. Mr. Rogers could start to feel anxious and overwhelmed, and when he did, he liked to play the chords to the show's theme song on the piano on set in order to calm himself.

15. The other way you could tell he was exasperated? If he said the word, "mercy." Mostly, he said it when he got to his desk in the morning, and the mountains of fan mail were a little bit too tall. But, "mercy" was about the strongest word in his vocabulary.

16. And yes, Mr. Rogers responded to every single piece of fan mail. He had the same routine every morning: wake up at 5:00AM. Pray for a few hours for all of his friends and family, study, write, make calls, reach out to every single fan who took the time to write him, go for a morning swim, get on a scale, then start the day. My morning routine is a bit less ambitious than that; Mr. Rogers, I thought you were supposed to make me feel good about myself! You just made me feel terrible!

17. But speaking of that daily weigh-in, Mr. Rogers watched his weight very closely. And he'd like to weigh exactly 143 lbs (65 kg). By the way, he didn't drink, smoke, or eat the flesh of any animal. NATCH.

18. Why did Mr. Rogers like the number 1-4-3 so much? Because it takes 1 letter to say "I", 4 letters to say "love," and 3 letters to say, "you" (Jean --Luc Picard).

19. Now it starts to get a little weird. So, journalists had a tough time covering Mr. Rogers because he'd often, like befriend them, ask them tons of questions, take pictures of them, compile an album for them at the end of their time together, and then call them afterwards to check in on them and hear about their families. He genuinely loved hearing the life stories of other people.

20. And it wasn't just reporters. Like once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS executive's house, he heard the limo driver was gonna have to wait outside for two hours, so Mr. Rogers insisted that the driver come in and join them. And then, on the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver's house on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet the family. And according to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life. The house lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night.

21. Okay, so thieves, Smithsonian curators, reporters, limo drivers, kids, all these people loved Mr. Rogers, but someone has to hate him, right? Well, LSU professor Don Chance certainly doesn't love his legacy: He believes that Mr. Rogers created a, "culture of excessive doting" which resulted in generations of lazy, entitled college students... and that makes sense, because generally the deterioration of culture can be traced back to a single public television program.

22. Other curious theories about Mr. Rogers that are all over the Internet: That he served in the army and was a sniper in Vietnam;

23. That he served in the army and was a sniper in Korea;

24. That he only wore sweaters to cover up the tattoos on his arms. These are all untrue. He was never in the army; he never shot anyone; he had no tattoos.

25. One other rumor we'd like to quash? That he used to chase kids off his porch on Halloween. That's crazy! In fact, his house was known for being one of those generous homes that give out full-size candy bars... because of course it was!

26. In fact, for all the myths that people want to create about him, Mr. Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same person "off screen," as he was, "onscreen." As an ordained Presbyterian minister and a man of tremendous faith, Mr. Rogers preached tolerance first. He never engaged in the culture wars; all he would ever say is, "God loves you just the way you are."

27. He was also kind of a superhero, like when the government wanted to cut public television funds in 1969, the then relatively unknown Mr. Rogers went to Washington and almost like straight out of a Capra film, his testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so passionate and convincing, that even the most gruff politicians were charmed... and instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV jumped from $9M to $22M.

28. Years later, Mr. Rogers also swayed the Supreme Court to allow VCR's to record TV shows from home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Plus, it allowed him to watch Captain Stubing on The Love Boat anytime he wanted, without having to stay up till 8:30PM.

29. He was also heavily parodied, but most of the people who made fun of him, loved him. Like Johnny Carson hoped his send up of The Neighborhood would make Mr. Rogers more famous.

30. And the first time Eddie Murphy met Mr. Rogers, he couldn't stop himself from giving the guy a big hug.

All right, we're running out of time, so let's speed this up.

31. Mr. Rogers was color-blind. I mean that figuratively, like his parents took in African-American foster children, and he loved people of all backgrounds equally, but also literally.

32. Michael Keaton got his start on the show: He was a puppeteer and worked the trolley.

33. Mr. Rogers once made a guest appearance on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman as a pastor's mentor.

34. And many of the characters on his show took their names from his family. Like, McFeely was his grandfather's name, Queen Sara is named for his wife.

35. And lastly, we return to the Salon so I can tell you probably my favorite story about Mr. Rogers: that he could make a whole New York City subway car full of strangers sing. He was rushing to a meeting and there were no cabs available so Mr. Rogers jumped on the subway. The car was full of people, Rogers assumed that he wouldn't be noticed, but he quickly was, of course, and then people burst into song, chanting, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

Thanks for watching mental_floss, which is made with the help of all of these lovely people and remember that you make every day special just by being you.

See Also...

20 Gentle Quotes from Mister Rogers
*
Mister Rogers on the Set of The Incredible Hulk
*
11 Scenes from the Mister Rogers Christmas Special

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios