The idea that the love of art fueled cinema rather than a pursuit for profits is a common misconception that permeates society’s collective consciousness. This misconception is the result of either a superficial examination of the cinematic landscape or an unwillingness to realize the truth about art as a whole: Art and the pursuit of profits are intrinsically linked in a capitalistic society. One cannot exist without the other. It’s a disconcerting thought, considering art is the physical manifestation of human creativity and many people believe art should transcend avarice, but the inherent nature of capitalism facilitates a symbiotic relationship between the two.
We sat down with the Cleveland -born icon, 66, to chat about his extraordinary career, his thoughts on the evolving digital world, and surprising details about a historical epic that landed his writing in Playboy and will soon be broadcast as an FX miniseries.
First, tell us how you got your literary start.
“I was born in Ohio to a truck driver and a housewife. I played every sport and read every book I could get my hands on and knew at the age of seven that I wanted to be a writer. In 1971, I hitch-hiked to San Francisco to join the “Beat” poets, but I was 10 years too late, so instead I founded the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, the nation’s largest literary event, with Ken Kesey and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ten years later, I went to UCLA film school and promptly sold five screenplays. I published a highly acclaimed San Francisco noir mystery, “Bohemian Heart” in 1993, and in 2004, my opus, “1906: A Novel” became a best seller and sold to Hollywood after a bidding war between Dreamworks and Warner Brothers. Since then, I’ve written the screenplays for all my books.”