Actors Who Thought They Could Write

Let’s Take a Look at the Actors From the Movies and TV screen, Who All Thought They Could Write a Fiction Book or Even a Couple of Them

With Judy Nunn, talking about her latest book Tiger Men, at the Elanora branch library on Thursday November 3, who is best known for her former acting role for a lengthy number of years as Alf Stewart’s wife Ailsa, on Home and Away,  I thought I’d take a deeper look into actors who have written fiction for various age levels. Some actors like Nunn have had a number of successful books to their names, others have written one book and well, there’s a reason no one wanted to buy any more. Note not all of these are currently in the GCCC library catalogue, if you’re interested in reading some of these actors’ books which aren’t in our collection, you may have to put in a purchase request for the recently published stuff, or an inter-library loan request for the older books.  You do either, by logging in at the top right part of the catalogue, then clicking on the special requests link and filling in the web page form.

Years ago I stumbled upon a great book called The Gun Seller, it was written by an author called Hugh Laurie.  It was one of the best crime/spy comic capers I had ever read, as good and fun as anything masters of the comic caper like Donald E Westlake produced. I actually had no idea this was the same Hugh Laurie as the actor who plays House M.D. when I picked up this book.  It was only when researching this 1996 published story to find out what other stuff this author has written that I discovered this book is actually written by the same guy, and not just an author who shares his name.  It’s actually a shame House M.D. was such a success, which obviously would take up a lot of time to shoot, as otherwise we may have seen more great books by Laurie.

Many other actors have had a go at writing a fictional tale, well besides their autobiographies which are probably heavily weighted on the fictional side that is.  I haven’t read all the books on this page, and of the ones I have, none have ever reached Hugh Laurie’s level of brilliance.   But let’s start with Stephen Fry who incidentally wrote four non fiction books with Laurie before the Gun Seller.  Non fiction seems to be more of Fry’s thing but he has written four fiction novels the latest being over ten years old now called The Star’s Tennis Balls or a.k.a The Revenge.  Wes Craven, whose appeared in a few films but is more famous as the director who brought Freddy to life (or back from the dead) and made slasher flicks cool once again in the 90’s with the Scream franchise has written a novel called Fountain Society.

Other actors who have had a go at one or more  fiction novels include Steve Martin, Carrie Fisher, Pamela Anderson, Ethan Hawke, Marlon Brando (who impressively made his fictional debut after he had died), Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Buffet, William Shatner, Jessica Fletcher, Gene Hackman, Kirk Douglas, Nick Cave (and I went with the less controversial book cover) and even Chuck Norris has written a couple of books.

Even though they landed a regular acting gig on a television show, there are some actors which by name you’ve probably never heard of. Obviously the huge advantage as a new author you have in getting people to pick up your book is the fact that they like you as an actor, or at least the character you play on the screen.  But what if your face is famous, but your name isn’t.  Ahhh, that’s where you’ve got to use your head, well at least the front part namely your face. Put it prominently on the front cover like Richard Belzer did (he plays a cop in Law and Order SVU)  and further entice passers by, to stop with a puzzled look on their face thinking is this really supposed to be here, shouldn’t this be in the non fiction section with the other actor autobiographies by calling it a title related to the show’s character you’re famous for, such as I am Not a Cop.

Of course there are those actors who the critics have not been kind with what they have produced such as John Travolta and his only novel,which although I’ve never read myself, if the title Propeller One-Way Night Coach is anything to go by, it does seem like it’s not exactly going to be that interesting. James Franco’s Palo Alto, hasn’t done much better. Macaulay Culkin’s odd formatted novel Junior, was also seen as a bit of a joke, but does seem to have gained a bit of a cult following.

Then we have the actors who want to write to kids, especially with picture books where quite a few actors have had a go, especially those who used to be successful singers .  Most of these actors are more successful at having a writing career through novels, with more than one book published under their names.  As well as musicians, comedians turned actors such as John Lithgow, Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith, Ricky Gervais, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Whoopi Goldberg have all made the best sellers in this genre. There’s still your plain old regular actors too such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Fred Gwynne (it’s likely you don’t know his name, he’s the guy who starred in amongst other movies, Pet Semetary. He also played Herman in The Munsters), Andrew Daddo (when he’s not acting in those annoying Foxtel commercials) and even Julie Andrews.

Even the Fonze – Henry Winkler, has written a series of junior fiction books. As has the youngest actress on this list of straight to DVD movie sequel fame Bindi Irwin. Speaking of singers turned actors turned writers, Madonna’s written a few picture books, Hilary Duff’s written two young adult novels and even Britney Spears has written one with her mum as well!

With a lot of these authors, especially the ones writing children’s books actually are joint ventures efforts, written together with successful non celebrity authors.  A full length adult fiction novel you can sort of understand but how a picture book has enough text to need two minds to write it, is a bit puzzling and does ask the question did they actually write any of it at all or was their name just added in exchange for large wads of cash to get the book onto the best sellers list?

Anyway these are the actor authors I can think of, if you can think of any others, feel free to list them in the comments section.  Update October 31 2011 – I have written a sequel to this blog with a heap more actor authors, find it by clicking on this link More Actors Who Thought They Could Write Fiction