There are very few authors who have sold more books than James Patterson – titans like Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare come to mind. He is certainly the worlds best-selling living author.
He has sold more than 350 million books to date and holds the Guinness World Record for most 1# New York Times bestselling titles with 67 and earns around $100 million a year. And he shows no sign of slowing down.
Of all the hardcover fiction sold in North America, Patterson accounts for an astonishing one out of every 26. Altogether, he has produced more than 130 novels. If you flip to the “books by” section in his latest novels, it actually takes up three full pages.
But despite this, Patterson has not had much success translating his books into films.
To compare, there have been 53 Agatha Christie films including Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Ten Little Indians, and Murder Most Foul, just to name a few.
We look at Stephen King who has had 30 bestselling books – less than half of Patterson – yet there is no doubt that King’s film adaptions reign supreme. The latest IT is the highest-grossing horror film of all time. Misery’s Kathy Bates won an award for Best Actress. The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture. The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick while was famously snubbed by the Oscars is considered a classic.
Turning to Patterson, his most highly acclaimed and successful adaptations are Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider. Morgan Freeman stars in both these films as Alex Cross. Not too long ago, Paramount Studios tried to revive the Cross series with Tyler Perry, but it performed terribly with Perry earning a Razzie award.
Patterson’s other films haven’t fared much better – 10 in total – and expect for the two Morgan Freeman films, are mostly forgettable.
CBS produced Zoo, based upon on another Patterson book of the same name but was cancelled only after three seasons.
So why hasn’t Patterson been able to crack the Hollywood code?
An easy answer might be because Patterson pumps out his book in a particularly formulaic manner – but what is Hollywood if not a formula? Look at all the superhero movies and all you see are formulas.
Patterson novels, exciting, captivating, suspenseful, and should lend themselves excellently to the big screen.
It’s a difficult question and there is no one answer.
It’s no doubt party luck and timing as is often the case with films.
Part of the reason, however, is that the James Patterson brand is tainted. While he is popular, many elitists – and I would include some Hollywood types in that category – do not like his brand of fiction. One cannot see a Stanley Kubrick-type converting a Patterson novel into a film – which is what he needs in order to turn his luck around.
While other popular writers have strong branding – Stephen King with horror, Agatha Christie with murder mystery – Patterson, because he writes in so many genres, is watered down.
And that makes him hard to sell.
Whether that will change in the future is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for certain. Hollywood cannot count James Patterson out. He is too much of a force of nature to be disregarded.
Jeridoo Productions' own Blog about our Productions, Projects and Film- and Movie-related News.