We’ve spoken before about the prolific inspiration writers like Philip K. Dick and Cormac McCarthy have brought to the film industry. But certainly in the same breath must be mentioned Elmore Leonard, who passed away earlier today at the age of 87. Leonard’s story “The Captives” was adapted for the feature film The Tall T in 1957, and more than 55 years later his literature is still finding a second home on screens both big and small. 3:10 To Yuma, Get Shorty, and Jackie Brown were all based on Leonard’s works, as is the TV show Justified, which found its inspiration in his short story “Fire in the Hole.”
The history of Leonard-based films will find a new chapter at Toronto International Film Festival next month when Life of Crime, based on his novel The Switch, premiers. The book was adapted by Daniel Schechter, who directs an impressive cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, and Tim Robbins. The story follows the comedic escapades of two ex-cons who, now out of prison, plan their next big score.
All told, Leonard’s works have provided the basis for more than 40 projects across film and TV. Perhaps a fitting summary for why Leonard was so loved comes in his ten rules for writing:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
Elmore Leonard, you will be missed.