-Jack, here. Larry shared his Hollywood experience on TwitterX recently and I thought it should be preserved here.
There are thousands of books out there with original ideas that could be made into movies, but Hollywood is mostly illiterate.
Okay, I’m gonna expound on this with a thread about my experiences with Hollywood, as limited as those may be. As a working novelist and red state American I’m like an outsider barbarian there.
First, I’m not exaggerating about them being illiterate, let me tell you a story-
Back when I was first getting started, Monster Hunter International had just blown up. I got contacted by my first movie producer. Nice guy. Had a made a bunch of movies I’d heard of in the 90s and early 2000s.
This guy actually read books. Little did I know just how odd that was at the time. So this producer read MHI, loved it, showed it to his friend who was the #2 person at a major movie studio, who also read books. And he was literally like the only guy at the entire movie studio who actually READ BOOKS.
I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not.
The #2 guy at Major Studio you’ve all heard of reads MHI. Loves it. Even had an MHI patch on his desk. I flew out there to meet with these people, only to promptly discover that literally everybody else in Hollywood is functionally illiterate. I have a lunch meeting with these dudes, some Studio People, another novelist (way more famous than me), and a guy who has won an Academy Award for special effects.
First time in my life I had mango chutney. Which is pretty awesome. Not so awesome was the rest of Hollywood. Studio guy starts pitching who should star in MHI, and this is when I learn Hollywood doesn’t give a fuck which actor actually fits the part, or who would do a good job, but who they have a deal with to give more work to. So they started casting- they start casting my 6’5″ 300 pound half Polynesian former illegal pit fighter main character.
“Hey, what about Tobey Maguire?”
“Oooh, I know, Jake Gyllenhall would like this part!”
And I’m like… are you people high? WTF is wrong with you? Other writer leans over, whispers in my ear “Don’t say anything. They never give a fuck what us writers think.” Of course none of the studio people had read the book, nor did they care to. Their job is to be VISIONARY.
As this went on, their vision got goofier and goofier, but I enjoyed my mango chutney quite a bit. It was an expensive place and the studio was paying for it.
Amusing side note- being a Hollywood restaurant, other patrons were wannabe actors, so when they heard us talking business, the actors realized these were actual studio people, so they started interrupting our lunch to introduce themselves and drop off glossy pictures and bios.
“Oh hi I couldn’t help but overheard your conversation and I think I’d be perfect for blah blah blah” as they are handing out pics.
When the first actor did this, all the other wannabes there saw this happen, so they all ran back to their cars and came back with pictures and bios to give us too. The studio people didn’t seem to notice. I didn’t know what to do with them so I started collecting them like trading cards.
So the Major Studio people loved MHI. They’re going to make me an offer. A week later the literate producer calls me and says the deal is dead. Why? Because Will Smith, who at the time was the biggest box office winner in the world, had just talked about doing a family comedy with Kevin James called “Monster Hunters” where a pair of child psychologists discover that the monsters under kids’ beds are real. (great pitch by the way) Which meant instantaneous death for my project. They aren’t messing with Will Smith.
And then Will Smith never made that movie anyway.
(Keep in mind, this was way before most people in America had ever heard of the Japanese video game with that name too, which extra kicks me in the nuts 12 years later!)
A few years later I option MHI to Entertainment One for a TV show. I get paid money to just let somebody else hold the rights. And then nada… I don’t hear anything for years. Occasionally something changes and I get an update. They actually paid for a couple of screen plays to be made of it. But nobody tells me anything because I’m just the writer. 🙂
At one point I was told Dwayne Johnson tried to pick up MHI from E1, but that fell through (I have no idea if he read it because who knows, but I was told he wanted to be a bad ass and fight monsters). But that fell through, and the Rock then bought the rights for Seal Team 666 from my friend Weston Ochse (good dude, RIP) where bad ass Navy SEALs fight monsters. I emailed Weston when that was announced and told him “congratulations, you bastard” 😀
Hard Magic got optioned by Radar Pictures, but same story. I haven’t heard anything new for a while (nobody tells the writer anything). Same thing. Occasionally a movie star I’ve heard of expresses interest, and then nada. A producer briefly shopped Tom Stranger for an adult cartoon, and Adam Baldwin said he’d love to play Tom again if it got picked up (he killed it on the audiobook) but Rick and Morty came along and anything “multidimensional” was seen as a rip off of that, so that project died too.
Long story short, Hollywood options a lot of books, but they only go into production on a fraction of those. Most of them just hang out in limbo, with us authors getting paid option money to just not sell the rights to somebody else. Ender’s Game got optioned for like 30 years before they finally made a movie.
So Hollywood has a ton of original unique properties available, but very few people who can actually make decisions actually read any of them. I’ve got a bunch of things which would make great TV shows or movies, and people ask me all the time who I’d like to see play whatever character, but I’m so jaded, I don’t care. I’m gonna cash that check and shut up because nobody gives a shit what the writer thinks.
Seriously, if you aren’t JK Rowling, Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about us wanting to “maintain our creative vision”.
People always ask me, aren’t I worried that Hollywood will screw it up and make a bad movie? Oh hell no. First off, they have to pay me more if they actually go into production. I am a devout capitalist. Second, if it is actually good, I sell more books because they are now a successful media tie in, and if it is a shitty movie, I just got an hour long commercial with everybody who has read it telling everyone “the book is better”.
So that’s my experience with Hollywood. It is a bunch of people who don’t read books and who don’t really give a shit about the story doing whatever they feel like, while desperate beautiful strangers give them glossy head shots.