[Editor's Note: The following was originally published in September 2011 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction.]
The Most Famous Writer You’ve Never Heard Of:
An Interview with I Am Legend Creator Richard Matheson’s Chronicler
by Gilbert Colon
Will Smith battles blood-drinking mutants in Manhattan. William Shatner witnesses a gremlin tearing apart a plane’s wing. A truck terrorizes a hapless motorist in Steven Spielberg’s first feature-length film. Robin Williams goes looking for his wife in the afterlife.
Smith, Shatner, Spielberg, Williams: these superstars are household names, and in the scenes described above they brought to life stories that are a celebrated part of film lore. But the man whose unique imagination produced the stories remains, himself, largely unknown. I Am Legend reaped $585 million at the box office…many of the most memorable Twilight Zone episodes emerged from his pen…his work has been spoofed repeatedly on The Simpsons…a character on The X-Files was named for him…Stephen King called him an influence. Yet he has been laboring in the vineyards almost unrecognized by audiences for decades-until now.
Author Matthew R. Bradley remedies this oversight in his book Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Film Works. Recently I had the privilege of asking Mr. Bradley a few questions about his favorite subject.
GC: Richard Matheson is a prolific writer, and almost everybody who has ever watched television or been to a movie has seen a Richard Matheson story: The Incredible Shrinking Man, a Twilight Zone episode, Duel, Somewhere in Time, I Am Legend or, most recently, The Box, yet almost nobody knows his name. Do you see Matheson as an unsung hero?
MB: Absolutely, which is one reason why I started documenting his career, first in interviews, then in introductions to his work, and finally in books. And it was quite a thrill when I was able to write jacket copy for several of his films while working at a Manhattan home-video company! I call him “the most famous writer you’ve never heard of.”
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