LA Confidential Author James Ellroy Considers Oscar-Winning Adaptation A ‘Turkey’

Crime writer James Ellroy is not a fan of the 1997 film adaptation of his book LA Confidential. That is despite the critical and commercial acclaim of the Oscar-winning movie.

The 75-year-old writer has previously withheld criticism because he did not want to “disparage” the movie’s director Curtis Hanson. However, Hanson’s death in 2016 has enabled Ellroy to speak more freely regarding his thoughts on the film.

“People love the movie ‘L.A. Confidential,’” Ellroy said during a discussion with author Michael Connelly at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

“I think it’s turkey of the highest form. I think Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger are impotent. The director died, so now I can disparage the movie.”

Despite Ellroy’s views, both of those performances were critically lauded at the time, with Bassinger winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, while Hanson and Brian Helgeland won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

When Hanson passed in 2016, Ellroy paid tribute to the auteur, but not without mentioning how their visions sometimes collided. He wrote the following in Variety: “My plotlines were reduced and re-stitched, my time frame was compressed, my love stories were re-triangulated. I created a world on paper. Curtis Hanson re-created it for film.

“It was my world but his world but my world to the point where all claims of ownership were blurred and lost. My dramatic sense and Curtis’s dramatic sense were always at odds. It didn’t matter. I don’t make movies, Curtis Hanson didn’t write novels. He gave me the gift of my words in a luminous new form.”

Even with his negative views about the movie, Ellroy did back a couple of television pilots based on the novel. The first was shot in 2003 and had Kiefer Sutherland in the starring role. However, it wasn’t commissioned for a series. Another pilot based on the novel was produced in 2018, but that also didn’t go any further than the pilot season.

L.A. Confidential was originally published in 1990. It was the third book in Ellroy‘s “L.A. Quartet” series, being preceded by The Black Dahlia, and The Big Nowhere. The series was completed by White Jazz, with film adaptations being mooted for years regarding that work. However, Ellroy has reportedly stated that “White Jazz is dead. All movie adaptations of my books are dead.”

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Author

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.