"The first job was adapting the story," [showrunner Graham] Yost says. "Elmore writes in a very film-friendly way, both structurally and in terms of dialogue, so we just took 60% to 70% of that [first] script directly from the short story." But once FX President John Landgraf, who was among the executive producers on "Karen Sisco," gave "Justified" the green light to go to series, a tougher problem opened up: how to tell more of [Marshall Raylan] Givens' story than was already written by his creator.
Yost charged his writing staff with familiarizing themselves with Leonard's books and even retyped whole passages of dialogue from the stories to better understand the author's rhythm and his dialogue — key elements in translating his work to the screen. Projects have lived or died according to how authentically they reproduced Leonard's style, with Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight" (1997) and Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" (1998) frequently cited as the best cinematic takes. Leonard himself agrees with that assessment, adding, "In 'Hombre' , Richard Boone delivered my lines the way I heard them," he said via telephone from his home in New Orleans. "And he was in 'The Tall T'  as well. I was amazed [by his performance]. It's not trying to be a tough guy. It's low key, for the most part."
It also helps to be on a network like FX that supports adventurous material. "John Landgraf asked me, 'Why will this one work where [ ABC's] "Karen Sisco" didn't?' And I said, 'You'll let us spend eight minutes on the bad guy and let scenes find their own course. You'll let us be violent and swear to the FX limit.' So, it's also about hoping that you have a good home."
Critical reaction to "Justified" has been largely positive, but one opinion matters above all others, and that's from Leonard himself. The author, who regards his executive producer credit as largely ceremonial, is effusive in his praise for Yost's efforts. "This one works," Leonard said. "I like the fact that they're trying to maintain my sound. That's very complimentary. I'm very pleased with this one."
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Nice piece in the Sunday Times about Justified, the first-rate Elmore Leonard adaptation that cablecast its pitch perfect season finale a few days ago on FX -- without ever feeling the need to iron out all the ambiguities.
at 10:40 PM