×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Elmore Leonard Dead at 87

Legendary writer of 'Get Shorty,' 'Jackie Yuma' and others

Elmore Leonard, the bestselling novelist whose works were adapted into numerous films, including “Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown,” “Out of Sight” and “3:10 to Yuma,” and who also penned original screenplays or adapted his own novels, died Aug. 20 at age 87.

Every novel Elmore Leonard wrote from the mid-1980s on was a best-seller, and every fan of crime stories knew his name. George Clooney was an admirer. So were Quentin Tarantino, Aerosmith, Saul Bellow and Stephen King. The author’s penchant for colorful characters and vivid dialogue were a natural for the movies.

RELATED: ‘Justified’s’ Graham Yost: Elmore Leonard Was ‘A Writer-Father to Me’

He died at his home in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Township, where he did much of his writing, from complications of a stroke he suffered a few weeks ago, according to his researcher, Gregg Sutter.

Leonard also wrote the story “Fire in the Hole,” on which the FX series “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant, was based, and served as an executive producer on the show.

Leonard’s novel “Raylan,” focusing on the character that became the focus of TV’s “Justified,” was published in January 2012; in a reappraisal of the author on the occasion of this publication, U.K. newspaper the Guardian declared, “Leonard is regarded as the greatest American crime writer, surpassing even Raymond Chandler. But it is time to drop the qualification of genre.”

Leonard penned original screenplays for the 1972 Clint Eastwood starrer “Joe Kidd” and 1974 Charles Bronson actioner “Mr. Majestyk”; for the bigscreen, he also adapted his own novels “The Moonshine War,” “Stick,” “52 Pick-Up” and “Cat Chaser.”

The writer experienced something of a bigscreen surge during the 1990s beginning with the popular and critically admired Hollywood satire “Get Shorty” (1995), starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman and Rene Russo. Quentin Tarantino followed with an adaptation of Leonard’s “Rum Punch” as “Jackie Brown,” starring Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro, in 1997. The following year saw director Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight,” another popular and critical success that starred George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez; Scott Frank drew an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of Leonard’s novel; Frank told one interviewer, “The great thing about Elmore Leonard’s stories is that they are already very cinematic in that they have great dialogue and situations.”

Other films based on his novels but adapted by others include revisionist Western “Hombre,” starring Paul Newman; “Valdez Is Coming,” with Burt Lancaster; and “The Big Bounce,” made in 1969 and again in 2004. “The Tonto Woman,” based on his story, was Oscar nominated in the live-action short category in 2008.

Leonard’s novel “Out of Sight” served as the basis for the ABC series “Karen Sisco,” starring Carla Gugino (Lopez had played the character in the film version of “Out of Sight”); the author penned two episodes of the skein, centered a female U.S. marshal, in 2003 and 2004. His novel “Maximum Bob” served as the basis for the brief ABC series of the same name starring Beau Bridges, and he also penned an episode of that show in 1998.

Earlier he scripted the 1980 TV movie “High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane.” Leonard also penned NBC’s 1987 Western telepic “Desperado” and served as creator on a series of follow-up efforts. In addition, a number of Leonard’s novels were adapted by others into TV movies.

Leonard’s long association with Hollywood began in 1956, when his story “Moment of Vengeance” was adapted for an episode of CBS anthology series “Schlitz Playhouse.” The next year two other Leonard stories were adapted into what became classic Westerns: Budd Boetticher’s “The Tall T,” starring Randolph Scott, and “3:10 to Yuma,” starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin (the latter film was successfully remade in 2007).

New Orleans-born Elmore John Leonard Jr. grew up in Detroit. He began by writing Westerns, then moved into crime fiction centered around the Motor City.

Leonard was also an exec producer on two recent feature adaptations of his novels still to be released: “Freaky Deaky,” adapted and directed by Charles Matthau, and “Life of Crime,” based on novel “The Switch,” set to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

Last fall, he became the first crime writer to receive an honorary National Book Award, a prize given in the past to Philip Roth, Norman Mailer and Arthur Miller.

Leonard was married three times. He is survived by five children.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More TV

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna'Jane

    Rachel Bloom on the 'Beautiful Mystery' of the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Series Finale

    While four seasons of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have explored musical genres from boy bands to country, the one type of music series co-creator and star Rachel Bloom admits the show will not explore before the end is Rebecca’s own style. “Basically the idea is that part of the music in her mind is her looking inside [...]

  • Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film,

    Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film, Documentary Features Head

    In the wake of Bela Bajaria’s recent move to lead Netflix’s international non-English original TV series, the online streamer is shuffling its leadership team to more clearly distinguish between development of its English and non-English language content. As a result, Netflix has elevated Lisa Nishimura to vice president of independent film and documentary features, a [...]

  • Family Guy Bob's Burgers

    Fox Entertainment Lays Out Programming Slate in Post-Disney Merger Sizzle Reel (Watch)

    Fox Entertainment unveiled a new sizzle reel on Wednesday night in the wake of the Disney-21st Century Fox merger officially closing, with the broadcaster touting its current series roster. The video features both scripted and unscripted programming across Fox’s lineup. Among the shows featured are legacy series like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “Empire.” In [...]

  • Katherine Heigl

    Katherine Heigl Cast as Lead in CBS Comedy Pilot

    Katherine Heigl has been cast as the female lead in the CBS comedy pilot “Our House,” Variety has learned. The show centers around a devoted mom (Heigl) and dad, who are committed to raising their children with the love and support the mom never got as a kid, but discover how difficult that is with her insane [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Lee Daniels

    Lee Daniels Reveals the 'Empire' Team's 'Anger' and 'Sadness' at the Jussie Smollett Fallout

    In a video posted to his Instagram Wednesday afternoon, “Empire” creator Lee Daniels has let everybody know how he feels about the Jussie Smollett “incident.” “These past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ rollercoaster,” Daniels said in the video. “Me and my cast have experienced pain, anger, sadness and frustration, and really don’t know [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content