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Cormac McCarthy And 11 Other Novelists Who Wrote For The Movies

Cormac Mccarthy Screenplay The Counselor Movie

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/19/2012 11:26 am Updated: 01/20/2012 3:11 am

Author Cormac McCarthy's novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, routinely hit the top of the bestseller lists and have been made into Academy Award-winning adaptations -- But at the age of 78, McCarthy's trying out a new kind of writing.

The Wrap reports that McCarthy will write his first screenplay for a movie tentatively called "The Counselor," centering on a lawyer who gets pulled into the shady underworld of drug dealing. McCarthy isn't the first author to go to Hollywood -- William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker, Joan Didion and many other acclaimed writers all tried their hand at screenwriting at some point in their careers.

But McCarthy's reasons for becoming a screenwriter are unlikely to resemble those of novelists before him, for whom the task was considered somewhat soulless; a necessity to pay the bills. McCarthy's role as screenwriter seems instead, more akin to the work playwrights like Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner have done in recent years, on films like "Shakespeare in Love" and "Munich."

But novel writing is necessarily a more solitary pursuit than either playwriting or screenwriting, which both require collaborators like the director, the designers and the actors to bring the author's words to life, as author Richard Price pointed out. While a play might find itself altered during the rehearsal practice, a screenplay modified to fit new needs as they arise on set, the novel is handed down directly to the reader to consume as is (excepting editors, of course).

Preserving any sense of authorial autonomy while also satisfying the Hollywood businessmen has proved difficult for many writers who've gone west. No less than F. Scott Fitzgerald found himself rejected, over and over again, despite his obvious talent with words.

We've compiled some of the best responses different authors have had to their stint in Hollywood -- and few of them are flattering. Read on below:

William Faulkner
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Asked whether writing for the movies is a compromise, Faulkner answered, "Always, because a moving picture is by its nature a collaboration, and any collaboration is compromise because that is what the word means--to give and to take."

On writing screenplays vs. writing novels, he said, "If I didn't take, or feel I was capable of taking, motion-picture work seriously, out of simple honesty to motion pictures and myself too, I would not have tried. But I know now that I will never be a good motion-picture writer; so that work will never have the urgency for me which my own medium has."

[From The Paris Review interviews]