Toronto: 'Life of Crime' Director Pays Tribute to Elmore Leonard

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Elmore Leonard

"Hopefully, I won't darken the mood too much," said writer-director Daniel Schechter, who will speak about the late author when his film adaptation screens at TIFF.

TORONTO -- Writer/director Daniel Schechter was planning to show Life of Crime at Elmore Leonard's home in suburban Detroit prior to the writer's passing. 

Leonard died Tuesday at age 87 of complications from a stroke before the film -- which is based on the legendary crime writer's novel, The Switch -- was completed.

A day after the author's death, Schechter, who knew Leonard wanted to see the film, recalled writing him three weeks ago to indicate Life of Crime still had no score, sound mix or color correction.

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"I begged him for three more weeks. If you give me this, I'll really show you a movie that you'll be very proud of, and I'll fly to Detroit and screen it for you," the director remembered writing.

It turns out that wasn't the first time Schechter had urged Leonard not to worry and to trust him.

He recalled reading all of his novels many times over, and poring over media coverage of the famed writer, before attempting to convince Leonard and his peeps that the Jackie Brown prequel would be safe in his hands.

"I worked very hard to convince them that I was the person to bring it (The Switch) to the big screen," Schechter recalled.

Much is riding on Life of Crime as Leonard and his reps looked for another of his novels to inspire a movie after the onscreen success of Justified and 3:10 to Yuma.

"They didn't want to sell out. They didn't want to make a lot of money. They wanted to make a film because they were really proud of Jackie Brown and Get Shorty and they wanted more films at that level," Schechter said.

Now, in tribute to Leonard, Schechter expects to get up next month before his Toronto festival closing night audience and offer thanks to the late writer for his inspiration.

"Hopefully, I won't darken the mood too much," Schechter added.

If anything, the director insists Life of Crime is a "shameless transcription" of an exceptional novel.

"I'm not being falsely modest. This book was especially easy to adapt compared to others. There's other books of his that I would have no idea on how to adapt into a movie," Schechter said.

"It was cinematic. There was a lot of good action balance and good dialogue," he added.