In the spring and early summer of 1969, Jim Morrison, after Miami had cancelled what would have been The Doors first national tour, was looking for artistic outlets outside of The Doors. He turned towards film and writing. Along with Frank Lisciandro and Paul Ferrara he filmed “Hwy”, and June 1, 1969 he started writing, with beat poet Michael McClure a screenplay for McClure’s novel “The Adept”.
Morrison had met McClure in New York in early 1968 while McClure was rehearsing his play “The Beard”. Their initial meeting didn’t go well until they started talking literature and poetry. Producer Elliott Kastner was interested in doing a film version of McClure’s “The Beard”, and Jim Morrison was interested in playing the lead of Billy the Kid. Morrison and McClure flew over to London to see Kastner about the part, Kastner didn’t think Morrison was right for the role possibly because Morrison was hungover and not looking at his peak physically. He asked if they had any other projects and Morrison suggested a film of “The Adept” and pitched the idea, giving Kastner and McClure a detailed synopsis of the book off the top of his head! Kastner passed on the project, but McClure was impressed with the synopsis of his novel. When the two were back in L.A. in June, McClure discovered Morrison was still interested in doing “The Adept” and had even found a producer that fronted some money to write the screenplay. Morrison and McClure rented an office in a building on the Sunset Strip, but McClure had a couple of provisions that Morrison would have to adhere to, no drinking before 6 PM (for both of them) and if Jim showed up late that would end the project. In an interview with Frank Lisciandro that was published in McClure’s “Lighting the Corners”, McClure remembers that Morrison took the project seriously and was never late.
To aid in the writing process they hired a secretary to take dictation as both writers went through the book writing the screenplay directly from the book, and bouncing ideas off of one another, including in the screenplay events and people they had seen. After 3-4 weeks of writing like this they had a 200 page script (a screenplay usually is about 90-120 pages), McClure regrets to this day not taking Morrison’s initial suggestion of writing a treatment first that would have acted like a guideline for them. Morrison, knowing they couldn’t show a producer a 200 page screenplay, in a cocaine fueled burst of creativity edited the screenplay down to 90 pages. Neither Morrison nor McClure was satisfied with the edited version. McClure later said “Jim took a redwood tree and cut it down to a ninety-page toothpick”. That in the editing Morrison had missed the point of the novel. Later other producers would option the novel but it was never made into a film.
Source: Frank Lisicandro’s interview with Michael McClure which was excerpted in “Jim Morrison: A Feast of Friends” (1991) and is published in full in Michael McClure’s “Lighting the Corners”. The interview has also been published in full in Lisciandro’s “Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together.”
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