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Author James Patterson On How Studios Wanted Him To Make Alex Cross A White Man...

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 26, 2013 at 11:05AM

Sadly, I feel my books have been better than the movies made from them. I’m a total movieholic, so that state of affairs is more depressing to me than it ought to be. My current paranoid theory is that I’m a victim of “caricature assassination” in certain Hollywood quarters — “Oh, that airport author has another best-selling page-turner.” True story: When “Along Came a Spider” was in galleys, I got a large offer from a studio. All I had to do was change Alex Cross into a white man.
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Alex Cross

Sadly, I feel my books have been better than the movies made from them. I’m a total movieholic, so that state of affairs is more depressing to me than it ought to be. My current paranoid theory is that I’m a victim of “caricature assassination” in certain Hollywood quarters — “Oh, that airport author has another best-selling page-turner.” True story: When “Along Came a Spider” was in galleys, I got a large offer from a studio. All I had to do was change Alex Cross into a white man. 

Words from author James Patterson when asked by the New York Times in an interview published last week, which of the films based on his books, is his favorite.

I bring this up, obviously because 3 novels from his Alex Cross series have been adapted for the screen - Morgan Freeman starred in the first two, and, most recently, Tyler Perry starred in the 3rd. None of them was received all-that well, critically or commercially. Although Freeman's turn as Cross fared better overall than Perry's, with the first film, Along Came a Spider (2001) the best of the bunch.

I suppose the most interesting, although not at all surprising thing about Patterson's quote above is that studio execs wanted him to make Alex Cross a white man. Like I said, nothing surprising about that. It's a story we've heard told by many-a filmmaker over the years - being asked to change the race of the leading character, when the character isn't white.

Obviously, he didn't do it, and audiences got 3 films with black male leads as a result.

It's also interesting that he feels his books are better than the film adaptations of them. Having read 3 of his novels, I can't entirely agree with him on that. As I've previously noted, the source material (as in the novel series) is terribly weak and offers absolutely nothing new to the genre. I've read many-a serial killer, man-hunt, revenge novel, done a lot better.

There's nothing transgressive about the stories or the style, nothing that pushes the boundaries of that box, or even blows up the box. It's really very basic stuff.

And while Patterson doesn't like what he refers to as "caricature assassination," he really is the best-selling "airport author." There's little weight to the novels, making them perfect reads (from start to finish) during a 6-hour flight from New York to LA.

So I wouldn't say that the novels have been better than the films. I think the films adequately represent the source material, and are maybe even a bit better in an instance or two.

I should note that, before the last Alex Cross movie was released, Patterson did say that he'd seen all of the film's footage, called it THE best Alex Cross movie ever, trumping previous works by Morgan Freeman, adding that he felt Tyler was closer to the character as written in the book in terms of age and physical ability.

He also called Tyler Perry a "method actor" (who knew?), and that he immersed himself into the role, recalling a funeral scene in which Tyler's performance actually made the other people on set weep because of how good and genuine the scene apparently plays out. 

My guess is that he said all of that ahead of the film's release to help generate excitement over it; but, really, he likely didn't care for the film.

There was word that Perry optioned another novel in the Alex Cross franchise, so we may see him in another Alex Cross movie. But given how poorly the last one performed, I doubt it. Certainly not with Perry in the role. Maybe Idris Elba will revisit the idea, given that he was once set to star, but pulled out.

I think the source material provides a good enough starting point for what could be a really good franchise of films. They would just need some imaginative, bold writers and a director to take the novels, use them as a base, and build upon them, creating something that could be more akin to an edgier TV series like Luther. But even better.

Read the full New York Times interview HERE.

This article is related to: Tyler Perry, Things That Make You Go Hmm..., Morgan Freeman


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