John Updike’s Hollywood

Agent Ken Sherman, who just closed a deal for a “Rabbit” TV series, looks back on the late novelist’s ties to Hollywood: “People were always incredibly respectful when I’d call and say I had a new Updike story.”

Last Updated: November 6, 2013 @ 3:32 PM
After John Updike died on Tuesday, Ken Sherman, Updike’s agent for the last 30 years at Ken Sherman & Associates, talked to The Wrap’s Amy Kaufman about the novelist’s experiences with Hollywood.
John was skeptical about film. Like many book writers, he was always curious to know about Hollywood and about how things were being developed. But he had an open mind.”
Read Scott Foundas on “Updike at the Movies.”
Read Michiko Kakutani on how “Updike Mapped America’s Mysteries.”
Read  David Ulin on Updike, the working writer.
More from Ken Sherman: 

“He was open to having his work adapted in an “I don’t quite understand it, but OK” and always curious way. He was hopeful that they would stick to the essence of his work, but knew that as projects develop there’s no guarantee a film or TV project will be exactly like the book, and you have to allow the teleplay adapter to have the freedom to adapt it in a way that’s best for the medium. He was always hopeful and supportive.”

“He always was interested in having good film productions made of his work, or television, in fact. At one point we were able to have “The Witches of Eastwick” made into a musical through Cameron Macintosh (“Cat,” “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera”) and it went up on the West End in London.”


“He was always open to his stories being developed into film and TV. It was an ongoing thing. His name carries great respect — people were always incredibly respectful when I’d call and say I had a new Updike story. People in the industry would come to me, too, and ask when would he have a new book available so they could get an early look at it.”


“He consulted on “Witches of Eastwick” and had he not passed away this morning, he was going to have an active role as a consultant on a television version of the “Rabbit” book series for which we’ve just closed a deal. I can’t tell you with whom yet. We’re hoping that the “Rabbit” series will be produced one year for each of the books and there are five books. The four major books and then the novella which was published in a collection of short stories. It’ll be five years of the series if the muses are with us.”


“He was a fan of “The Witches of Eastwick,” the film. He was realistic, knowing they had adapted his book and the book was much, much darker than the film. I wasn’t with him when the movie came out initially. I know that we had talked often about the “Witches of Eastwick” musical and he said, “I wish them luck, I wish them the best as they adapt it so that millions of people will see.”


“His recent novel “Terrorist” is being developed through Sony Pictures Television and Lifetime as a TV movie with producer Frank von Zernick and will hopefully be produced this year.


“He came out here in November and was “in conversation” at UCLA’s Royce Hall. It sold out and I met him backstage with the two executive producers for the “Rabbit” project and he was open, wonderful, full of life and joking, saying “On Page 47 of the book I know what happens.” He had had a bout with pneumonia and discovered it was lung cancer at the end of the year. Personally, I’m feeling enormous loss. But the upside is that Updike wrote over 60 books in his career, and countless short stories and art and literary criticism, and he made people think in the most wonderful way about everything. How lucky we were to have had him for so long in our lives.”

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