From Stevie Ray Vaughan’s times to Mary Willis Walker’s crimes, Texas tales tickle Tinseltown’s fancy. The transformation of University of Houston professor Rosellen Brown’s Before and After into a feature film starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson is only the latest instance of a homegrown tome going from the printed page to the big screen. In honor of Texas Writers Month, here’s a heads-up on five more tales by and about Texans that are heading for Hollywood.
The Two-Bear Mambo The author: Nacogdoches novelist Joe R. Lansdale. The book: a thriller set in East Texas featuring Lansdale’s odd couple protagonists, a gay black conservative and a straight white liberal. The production company: Propaganda Films. The money: Lansdale has cleared between $50,000 and $75,000; if the film is made, he’ll get more than half a million dollars. The talent: David Lynch may direct. No stars yet, though Lansdale says his dream team is Laurence Fishburne and Nick Nolte.
Mr. President, I Have a Question The author: Tyler native Sarah McClendon—at 85, the oldest White House correspondent. The book: a forthcoming memoir of McClendon’s 52 years covering eleven presidents. The studio: Three of Hollywood’s top women executives have expressed interest. The money: “Well into six figures,” says a source. The talent: Fellow Texan Sissy Spacek offered to play the lead, McClendon says, though “the boys at the National Press Club bar decided it should be Sally Field.”
Caught in the Crossfire The authors: Austinites Joe Nick Patoski (a senior editor at Texas Monthly) and Bill Crawford. The book: a posthumous biography of Austin blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. The studio: Miramax. The money: Patoski and Crawford have split a $15,000 option and will get an additional sum in the low six figures when the movie is made. The talent: Rumor has it that Austinite Robert Rodriguez will write the screenplay and direct once he wraps the Steven Spielberg-produced remake of Zorro, and that Brad Pitt will play Vaughan.
Texas Guinan, Queen of the Nightclubs The author: Boston-based Louise Berliner. The book: the story of the fabled Waco-born hostess-actress who took New York by storm in the twenties. The studio: Universal Pictures. The money: Berliner declines to say, as does Bette Midler’s All-Girl Productions, which optioned the book. The talent: Midler will star as Guinan. Martin Scorsese will direct a screenplay by David Henry Hwang, who wrote M. Butterfly.
Under the Beetle’s Cellar/The Red Scream The author: Austin mystery maven Mary Willis Walker. The books: Walker’s most recent thriller and its Edgar award—winning predecessor. The production company: made-for-TV movie kings Jaffe/Braunstein Films. The money: Walker stands to pocket a high-six-figure sum. The talent: Marlo Thomas of That Girl fame will not only executive produce the two flicks—she’ll star as that scribe-turned-sleuth Molly Cates.