Re: RARA-AVIS: name changes - Parker

From: Terrill Lankford (
Date: 31 Mar 2002

Etienne Borgers wrote:

> Normally contracts for books, scenarios... etc picked
> up by Hollywood have a standard clause saying that if
> the producer (studio, ... whatever) thinks fit they
> can "re-use" any character of the story in future
> films with or without the writers help... and in any
> context they decide.
> So, in case of an existing and rather successful
> series of books as it was the case with Parker, one
> understands easily why the agents (or the writer
> himself, I'm not sure) did not authorize the use of
> the original name of their "hero" for the film.
> This led to Walker in the classic Point Blank(Jim is
> right for the name).
> I suppose Porter's name followed the same way (even
> maybe a double reason, as being not even authorized to
> use Walker again in the new- and very inferior- film).
> E.Borgers

We've covered this subject before - it's in the archives. Smarter than most writers, Westlake wisely put clauses in his contracts when Hollywood (and France) came a callin' allowing the producers to buy the stories of the various Parker novels they were interested in, but not allowing them to own the character. There have been at least seven Parker novels turned into movies and with the exception of 1984's SLAYGROUND Westlake has never allowed the character to be called Parker. I think he wrote the screenplay to that one as well and I'd bet his contract stated that he retained rights to the character no matter what they called him. Writers who write series characters and get courted by the movies should emulate Westlake's business savvy whenever possible, otherwise a producer can tie up two or more books just by optioning the rights to one. It's happened to some pretty smart people out there.

But not Donald Westlake (or Richard Stark).


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