EXCLUSIVE: United Talent Agency has signed prolific crime writer Elmore Leonard, who has retained a major Hollywood agency for the first time in his 60-year career. UTA will rep Leonard in film, TV, digital and allied rights. Leonard, who continues with literary agent Andrew Wylie, is eager to see more of his books adapted for the screen. He has written 45 Westerns and crime novels, and 40 short stories.
His enthusiasm is understandable. Leonard’s 2002 short story Fire In The Hole was the basis for the superb FX series Justified, which stars Timothy Olyphant as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. Leonard told me in May 2010 that he’d sworn off writing screenplays in 1993 (his past scripts include the Charles Bronson film Mr. Majestyk) because he got tired of trying to please movie executives half as smart as he is about storytelling. But Justified provided a big spark, he is an active voice for series creator Graham Yost, and Leonard welcomes other chances to see his crackling dialogue and indelible crime plots on some screen or other.
There have been 20 films made from his books and stories. This goes back to his first movie check for the original 3:10 To Yuma, which he told me was $4000, a step up from the 2 cents per word and $90 total he received when the original story was published in a pulp magazine. Since then his adapted works have included Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Jackie Brown, Valdez Is Coming and the Paul Newman pic Hombre. Leonard’s most recent novel is Raylan, a continuation of the story of Justified‘s gunslinger marshal. The most recent adaptation of a Leonard novel is Freaky Deaky, the Charlie Matthau-directed drama that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.
“I have always actively sold my work for movies and television. Today that’s truer than ever, and I’m looking forward to working with UTA,” said Leonard.
Wylie will continue to represent the writer’s publishing rights worldwide.