Hollywood's 25 Most Powerful Authors
Sixty-one years, 45 novels and countless short stories after his first published tale, “Trail of the Apaches,” appeared in pulp magazine Argosy, Leonard — “Dutch” to his friends — still is going strong. “I’m having fun,” says the 87-year-old, who received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on Nov. 14. His late-career bloom includes a Hollywood renaissance thanks to such fans as Quentin Tarantino, director of 1997’s Jackie Brown (based on Leonard’s Rum Punch) and George Clooney, star of 1998’s Out of Sight, who relish his trueto-life dialogue and spare, gritty action. Another fan is writer-producer Graham Yost, whose original Justified script was such a spot-on take of Leonard’s Raylan Givens character that the author “didn’t change a word,” he says. All told, Leonard’s work has been adapted into 20 movies and seven series/telepics, including the FX hit Justified. The short story “3:10 to Yuma” has been adapted twice, in 1957 and 2007, when it starred Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Although Leonard says he gets “a couple of hundred thousand” now for an option, the payoff hasn’t always been so sweet. He has made just $9,090 for “Yuma”: $90 in 1953 for the story, $4,000 for the first movie and $5,000 for the remake — and then only because his agents complained. Leonard’s next novel, his 46th, will be set in the world of competitive bull riding. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I still enjoy it,” he says. “Writing never felt like work to me. I think I’ve still got a couple more novels in me.”
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