Richard Matheson – author of the sci-fi Legend – hit his 86th birthday on February 20.
Matheson also penned many other classic sci-fi, fantasy and horror tales including The Incredible Shrinking Man, along with many classic Twilight Zone episodes such as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Somewhere in Time, Duel and Reel Steel.
With the success of Reel Steel and the latest incarnation of Legend, Matheson’s hot again, and according to Variety, Matheson’s son and talent agent Alan Gasmer are shopping 150 classic stories that could be adapted into future films.
Frankly, it’s great to see Matheson’s stories are still holding up, and are making successful movies today, proving once again that great writing really can stand the test of time.
The fact that Matheson’s still around to keep enjoying his continued success is also remarkable. Back in 2007 when Legend became a big hit Matheson told me, “It’s odd to finally catch on at the age of 82. I don’t mind it, but I’ve been writing good stuff for the last forty, fifty years. I’ve always been able to support my four children, but adulation, which I’m getting now, came a little bit late in the day.”
When Legend finally made it’s third trip to the big screen, Matheson said, “It’s really not my novel, but it was very well done, and I thought Will Smith was excellent. He conveyed the sense of loss for his family that I had in the book, I thought he did that very well.”
The inspiration for I Am Legend came when Matheson saw Dracula at the age of sixteen. “When I left the theater, I thought, Gee, one vampire is scary… what if the whole world was full of vampires?” He didn’t get around to writing the story until 1952, and it was published as a short story in 1954. “When I set it in the future, 1976, that was the future.”
Matheson tries to put himself in the position of the main character of all his stories, so he placed I Am Legend in the tract-housing neighborhood he lived in at the time in Gardenia, California, and was able to blend horror and sci-fi together with Legend to make the story seem more plausible. “In Legend, everything is explained in a scientific way,” he says. “I explained vampires psychologically and biologically.
“There seems to be something about my stories that hang on,” Matheson continued. “I wrote Legend over fifty years ago, and it’s still valid. Not to pat myself on the back, but maybe my stories are timeless. I never knew that The Twilight Zone was going to last so long. It just sort of hung on year after year. People had to write letters back then saying, ‘Don’t cancel it,’ but they’re still showing it.”