M Have you ever thought of doing anything more in the theatre?
R It’s a craft that I don’t understand. I’m not a professional writer of scripts. When the play was on, it was full of flaws, because I didn’t understand about stage craft. You actually have to go to stage school, you actually have to learn this craft. You can’t just breeze in and think ‘I can write a script.’ It’s nonsense. When I’ve been asked to write scripts for my books for people who’ve bought the rights, we’ve got into terrible trouble because I can’t write scripts. So I said ‘Bring in a professional who knows what he’s doing. Give him the book, let him write the screenplay.’ I can’t do it. Writers have this big ego. They think ‘Somebody buys the book, I’ll write the screenplay.’ If they did it’d be crap. How many writers have actually written a film script? It’s also very iffy. The last time it was offered to me, Yorkshire Television offered it to me. They wanted to do The Antipope. I spoke to the publishers about it and they said ‘No. Don’t do it. For one thing, you’re commissioned to write these books, and you haven’t got time to do it. The other thing is, chances are it’ll never happen. You’ll have wasted a whole load of months on this thing. If they’re really serious, they’ll get you a proper scriptwriter. It expired two days ago.
M Sell it again, then!
R Sell it again! Before Armageddon and the later ones came out, I made more money out of selling them for films and things than I ever made out of publishing them. It was embarrassing. I’d go along to a lunch and somebody would give me cheque for a thousand quid. I thought ‘Bastard. I only got paid fifteen hundred quid for The Antipope.’ All those months! It’s ridiculous.
M Do you think we’ll ever see any of your stuff adapted?
R Only if I ever get very famous. You’ve got to be incredibly famous, because TV is inundated with stuff. They say ‘Well, we’ve heard of Jeffrey Archer, we’ve heard of Jackie Collins, we’ve heard of ...’ Who’s the woman who wrote Riders?
M Jilly Cooper.
R ‘...Jilly Cooper, but we’ve never heard of these other people, and so we’re not risking it.’ Also, every time I get somebody interested, they go ‘Ooh, big budget, big special effects budget.’ I say ‘Don’t do it! Say small budget. Say black and white. Say B-movie.’ They say ‘Ooh no, millions of pounds.’ They ask for millions of pounds and people tell them to piss off.
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