"When I write anything—a short story, a novel—I see it in my mind like a movie."
About This Interview
In his three-hour Archive interview, Richard Matheson (1926-2013) recalls the inspiration behind his classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which starred William Shatner: "I was on an airplane and I looked out and there was all these fluffy clouds and I thought, 'gee what if I saw a guy skiing across that like it was snow,' because it looked like snow. But when I thought it over, that's not very scary, so I turned it into a gremlin out on the wing of the airplane." Richard Matheson is considered one of the preeminent science fiction/fantasy/horror writers of the 20th Century. Matheson reminisces about the first stories he wrote and getting published at the age of nine. He recalls his early success as a professional writer with the sale of his now-classic short story, "Born of Man and Woman." He relates his eking out a living working at the Douglas Aircraft Company while pursuing a writing career. He describes the big screen adaptation of his novel The Incredible Shrinking Man, which he adapted himself. Regarding his break into television, he discusses his writing partnership with Charles Beaumont and touches on their work together, which was frequently in the then-popular western genre. He comments on why he and Beaumont split their partnership when they wrote for the classic sci-fi/fantasy anthology The Twilight Zone as they had already individually made a name for themselves in that genre. He also speaks of his sole writing work in this period on the series The Lawman, outlining his real-time episode "Thirty Minutes." RegardingThe Twilight Zone, Matheson gives his impressions of series creator Rod Serling and discusses each of the sixteen teleplays he contributed to, including: "The Invaders," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and "Little Girl Lost." He then fondly recalls his days interacting with such stars as Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone when he was a writer for director Roger Corman at American International Pictures. Among the 1960s television series he contributed to and looks back on are Star Trek and Combat. He recounts how, on the day of JFK's assassination, the idea was born for his short story and celebrated television movie Duel (and also gives his opinion of the finished product and relates his observations of director Steven Spielberg during shooting). He discusses the feature film adaptations of his novel I Am Legend, the movies, The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man. He discusses the TV movies he wrote that led to the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He describes several of a string of television movies he wrote in the 1970s and 80s including Dying Room Only, Dracula, Trilogy of Terror and—in a change of pace genre-wise— The Morning After, for which he says: "That's one of the proudest moments I have in television. I was told that they actually use it at medical schools as an authentic presentation of alcoholism." He then speaks on his writing style and writing process. He elaborates on the production and cult following of Somewhere in Time, a feature film he adapted from his own novel Bid Time Return. Among the later television shows he comments on are The Martian Chronicles and Amazing Stories. He also gives his opinion of the film adaptations, by others, of his novels What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes. Lastly, he expresses his views on larger topics such as reincarnation. Karen Herman conducted the interview in Hidden Hills, CA on April 16, 2002.