5 Must-See Elmore Leonard Adaptations
By DAVID WEINER
August 20, 2013
Elmore Leonard, known for his gritty crime novels and westerns populated by colorful, offbeat characters, died on Tuesday morning from complications from a stroke. He was 87. Many of his projects were adapted to the big screen, and we've rounded up five must-see movie and TV adaptations that best exemplify what Leonard's work was all about.
Out of Sight
Arguably the best adaptation of Leonard's work, this 1998 Steven Soderbergh-directed film stars George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez as a con and cop, respectively, who unwittingly fall for each other despite being on opposite sides of the law. Initially trapped in a trunk together, the career criminal and the U.S. Marshall create serious sparks, forcing Lopez's character to wrestle with her conscience as Clooney heads to Detroit to pull off one final heist. The film co-stars Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames, Dennis Farina, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks and Michael Keaton, who reprises his Jackie Brown role as ATF agent Ray Nicolette.
John Travolta continued his post-Pulp Fiction comeback streak with this 1995 star-studded mob comedy directed by Barry Sonnenfeld about Chili Palmer, a Florida mobster who travels to Hollywood to become a movie producer. Co-starring Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, David Paymer and Rene Russo, the movie capitalized on Leonard's distinct sense of dark humor with winning results. The film was followed up with the less successful Be Cool in 2005, in which Travolta's Palmer takes on the music industry.
Quentin Tarantino's hugely anticipated 1997 follow-up to Pulp Fiction was an adaptation of Leonard's Rum Punch. Retitled Jackie Brown with Pam Grier cast as the title character, the Oscar-nominated homage to blaxploitation films of the '70s tracks an aging flight attendant stuck between the police and an arms dealer. With a half a million dollars at stake, everyone is trying to get the payout. The question is: Who should they trust? The film also stars Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Bowen and Chris Tucker.
3:10 to Yuma
A 1953 short story written by Leonard that first appeared in the pulp publication Dime Western Magazine, the story was adapted for the big screen twice, first in 1957 starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, and then in 2007 starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Set in the late 1800s, the plot follows a rancher (Bale) tasked with escorting a charming but ruthless outlaw (Crowe) to prison in Yuma, Arizona in exchange for a reward. But as the train's departure time approaches, multiple obstacles – ranging from ambushes by Indians, the outlaw's gang and some serious mind games -- make the job a lot more complicated. The 2007 version was directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line) and also stars Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol and Logan Lerman.
Leonard's novels Pronto and Riding the Rap and short story Fire in the Hole established the memorable character of Kentucky native U.S. Marshall Raylon Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant in Justified (which premiered in 2010 and is now four seasons deep), and the prolific writer had said that the FX TV show was his favorite adaptation of his work. Givens enforces his own brand of Justice in his hometown, giving bootleggers, big and small crime organizations and white supremacists a serious run for their money with charm and swagger.