Thursday, October 28, 2010

Online Artifact

One Man Against Insuperable Odds
“I don't know why Hollywood keeps coming back to the book just to not do it the way I wrote it. The book should have been filmed as is at the time it came out. It's too late now” (Scoleri). When asked about his thoughts on “Hollywood’s continued fascination” (Scoleri), with his novel from John David Scoleri, chief operator of the unofficial I Am Legend Archive website, Richard Matheson responded with this revealing statement. Throughout the interview, Matheson dispels rumors that his novel is more than an entertaining read, and criticizes how his novel has been adapted by various filmmakers. He does not hesitate to voice his disappointment with the outcome of these adaptations. In fact, Richard Matheson proves to be much like his character in I am Legend by remaining true to his 1952 novel in spite of the powerful trends of today’s multi-million dollar film industry. Matheson continues his writing theme of “one man against insuperable odds” (Scoleri) in his personal life as he rejects the interpretations and adaptations of I Am Legend by critics and filmmakers intent on making its message reflect their own agenda.
Throughout the interview, Scoleri tries to unearth Matheson’s hidden agenda behind I Am Legend. Unfortunately for Scoleri, Matheson has a more simplistic view on his novel than, in my opinion, Scoleri thought. I believe that Matheson wrote the novel because he thought it would be an enjoyable novel that portrays what could happen to civilization if we were to keep experimenting with different viruses. Scoleri is looking for more from him, saying “Critics performing analysis of I Am Legend often say it is a metaphor for the spread of communism, especially since it was written during the height of the cold war” (Scoleri). It’s clear from the conversation that Matheson really did not intend to reflect a real world situation in his novel, he just wanted to write a novel that people would enjoy. The fact that Matheson rejects the idea that his novel is about more than just sci-fi entertainment shows that he dislikes being grouped together with other novels that try to send a message about the current social climate through their works. It appears that Matheson is much like Neville, in that he stands out from the majority of classic popular authors as an author writing for entertainment, rather than writing to send a political or social message. I think that if you read too much into this novel, such as trying to attach references to past political situations of the time, that the reader may misconstrue what the story means. Matheson simply wishes for the reader to be entertained from his novel. Matheson wants his story to hold on to its entertainment value, rather than be replaced by one in which the reader is searching for clues to tie into real life events.
Matheson is again displeased when the discussion turns to his thoughts on what Hollywood has done with his novel. Film and novels rarely mesh together in a way that pleases the reader and Matheson proves this to be true as he criticizes the film adaptations of his novel. Scoleri asks Matheson questions about the film adaptations of I Am Legend and what he thinks of the scripts written for these films. From Matheson’s answers it is pretty obvious that he is not happy with any interpretation so far. Matheson is steady in his insistence that his novel is the one and only true version of I Am Legend. I think he is very displeased with what Hollywood has done to his masterpiece and he believes that no one, other than himself, will provide a script or movie that does the novel justice.
For instance, the vampire aspect is in no doubt a large part of Matheson’s novel. The social aspect of movies oftentimes can cause large parts of novels to be changed. For example, large film studios often change novels to appeal to the broadest audience in terms of entertainment and social context. If you have ever watched the Will Smith/Francis Lawrence version of I Am Legend, you may notice that the creatures appear to be more zombie-like than vampires. They lose their hair and their skin is blotchy grey, resembling the undead rather than the “Dracula” type vampire. The film studio changed the way these creatures were portrayed in the book to make the story more appealing to film audience. If the movie had been made after the Twilight craze instead of before, it is likely the creatures would have stayed more vampire-like. This I’m sure is just one of the many reasons Matheson does not like the film adaptations of his novel.
Matheson’s theme of “one man in the face of insurmountable odds” (Scoleri) is clearly seen in his interview with Scoleri. Despite many attempts by others to change his novel for their own purposes, Matheson holds steady in stating that none of the interpretations of adaptations of his novel can really be thought of as reflecting the original story. He holds firm the idea that his original novel has never been accurately remade and in these attempts to stand up for his original work finds himself alone against many determined to make his novel popular by changing the message of the story.

Works Cited
Scoleri, John David. "Interview with Richard Matheson."
The I Am Legend Archive. 15 June 2008. Web. 28 October 2010. .


  1. Wow, I had no idea about Matheson‘s views on writing and the way that Hollywood has basically mutated his story. I haven’t actually seen the Will Smith version of the book, and to be honest, when I first saw that we were reading this in a vampire novel class, I wondered why -- the previews that I saw definitely implied ‘zombie’ rather than ‘vampire’. I think the story fit in perfectly though, as it was a great contrast to Dracula and the archetypical vampire tales that we’ve read. It’s nice to hear Matheson’s views on the film adaptations, and his ‘un-winnable fight’ with its similarities to Neville. It’s definitely true that Hollywood will twist any story to fit into whatever niche that they want, even if that means changing the message and/or major plot points.

  2. I was wondering what Matheson thought about the movie because it was so different than the book. I know I would be upset if something I wrote was turned into something completely different than what I had intended. What is the point of taking making a movie based on a book if you change everything about it including the plot and the personality and characteristics of the characters, not to mention the characters themselves. It would probably be easier just to start from scratch.

  3. Great work Duquaine, I was really excited by the concept behind your topic. How interesting to read about the thoughts of the author on the many failed adaption’s of his book. It seems so rare that you have authors willing to come out and voice their displeasure on a movie adaption of their works. Many authors, such as Tom Clancy and others actually sign on with movie studios in an attempt to more carefully scrutinize the ‘creative’ process. This reminds me of the famous story of Stephen King not liking the original adaption of “The Shining”, the one with Jack Nicholson. King didn’t react favorable to the changing of Jack’s back story and said he hated it. Of course, he remade the film in a more true to the book version for TV and it was widely panned as nearly unwatchable. So there is no accounting for taste!

    I will say that I don’t fully agree with Matheson’s assumption that all attempts to delve deeper into the motivations behind a book result in the novel becoming less entertaining. In fact, reflecting back upon what you have just read helps leave a more concrete image in your mind as to the author’s possible motivations and help encapsulate the main imagery and plot in the readers mind. While I REALLY enjoyed his book, I cannot honestly say that I agree with him in that particular instance.

    However having seen many of the adaption’s of his novel, Matheson is definitely correct in stating that his novel has never been accurately retold. The Omega Man and I Am Legend stand out as particularly obvious offenders; both movies feature a reworked central plot and a wildly different interpretation of Neville.