It’s a Good Idea to Own The Rights to a Book Before You Film It

James Franco
James Franco

Actor James Franco made big news in the Hollywood trades when he began pre-production on a movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN that he was slated to write & direct. He got Scott Rudin on board to produce, lined up IMGlobal to distribute the film, and managed to cast Russell Crowe and Vincent D’Onofrio, among others. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Except that Franco, the distributors and the producers forgot one niggly detail: they didn’t acquire the rights to Cormac McCarthy’s book. The Hollywood Reporter revealed the embarrassing story earlier this month.

I was astonished. You’d expect something like this from amateurs…but from experienced professionals and a major international distributor? I can’t imagine how the movie got this far along without anybody in business affairs double-checking that someone had actually secured the rights to the book. What makes this even more unbelievable is that Scott Rudin produced the adaptation of McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN…and yet he was apparently unaware that no deal had been made with the author.

But that’s not all. It turns out that Franco shot 30 minutes of test footage several years ago, you might call it his own fanfic adaptation, with Luke Perry and Scott Glenn among the cast in an effort to snag the rights…but McCarthy didn’t bite. So did Franco just decide to make the movie anyway and hope that McCarthy would end up being okay with it?  It’s mind-boggling.

4 thoughts on “It’s a Good Idea to Own The Rights to a Book Before You Film It”

  1. Hollywood mines publishing regularly for stories and story ideas so they can create “product.” There can be huge money to be made from the characters and plots that novelists, who are by and in large paid nothing, have toiled over. A little respect, folks

  2. It kind of once again shows how a slice of Hollywood feels toward the folks who write anything. Buzzing flies; get ’em outta here.

  3. Actually, it shows just how much power authors have if they take a stand for their work. A Hollywood production, with major stars attached, was stopped in it’s tracks because the writer said one word: No. Don’t assume the writer was disrespected just because some actors and producers jumped the gun and didn’t do their job right. It looks like the author had a good lawyer who kept the movie rights and approval with the author. If you’re not getting “a little respect” for what you’ve “toiled over”, maybe you should start there. They can only take it if you give it up.

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