By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Author James Patterson may have sold more than 260 million books worldwide, but he still has not tired of the thrills as his fictional detective, Alex Cross, once again comes to life on the big screen in the upcoming film "Alex Cross".
Patterson's protagonist, homicide detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross, has already been adapted onto the big screen by actor Morgan Freeman in 1997's "Kiss the Girls" and the 2001 thriller "Along Came a Spider".
For the latest film, out in U.S. theaters on Friday, Patterson picked writer-director-actor Tyler Perry to play the lead in an adaptation of "Cross," the 12th book in the series, where the detective pursues vicious serial killer, The Butcher, played by Matthew Fox.
Patterson sat down with Reuters to talk about the new film, the casting of Perry in the lead role, and why he continues to adapt his work on the big and small screens.
Q: Your Alex Cross book series is very successful, with the 20th installment due out next February. Why do readers like him?
A: "He's unusual as these kind of characters go because he's very compassionate. He's a family person. The standard of these movies is the lone wolf cop/detective/private eye who lives a cynical life, goes home, smokes, drinks himself to sleep, has women trouble, etc. This is a different character. He's an African-American guy who is well-educated and is very family oriented. He's raising his kids and doing a good job. The grandmother is involved in the household."
Q: Did you have a lot of influence over the film version of "Alex Cross"?
A: "On this one, a lot. I had cast approval, director approval. I own 40 percent of the movie. But I'm easy. I'm the best partner you could ever want. I'm tough in the sense that I know what works and what doesn't. I have this gut about what people want to read about, what they want to see on the screen. And I have the luxury of being able to do whatever I want to do."
Q: Tyler Perry tends to direct, write, produce and act in his own projects. Were you nervous that he might not be able to relinquish control and be simply a work-for-hire?
A: "We went to Atlanta to meet him and he said, 'James, I wouldn't attempt this if I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I have too much to lose and I wouldn't try this, but I'm sure I can do it. And I'm going to submit to another director.' And he did. There was no ego. He was all business. And I think he pulled it off. People are going to go, 'Wow.'"
Q: What do you think of the finished product?
A: "The movie has the suspense you would expect, but what separates it (from others in that genre) is, it's emotional. I think it would have been nice to have a couple million more (dollars) to make the movie. I think the opening could have been better, an opening scene that really established the killer and the girl he had taken - a strong dialogue scene that would have had context for the chase."
Q: You have a number of books adapted to film, as well as TV movies and television series. Is that important to you?
A: "My thing with movies is very simple. I don't need the money, but I like to do anything that I can look at and go, 'That's good.'"
Q: Have you been able to say that with the bulk of the adaptations?
A: "I look at the 'Women's Murder Club' TV series (that ran from 2007-2008) and go, 'That was bad.' Other than (star) Angie Harmon, the casting was shaky in terms of chemistry."
Q: Yet you continue to try....
A: "Because I'm a movie freak! I see everything. 'The Master', 'Taken 2', 'Hotel Transylvania'. I see anything, any day of the week. My father grew up in the poorhouse ... (and) my mother cleaned the poorhouse. So growing up, for my one sister and I, going to movies on Saturday, that was it. And it was double features. I remember how exciting it was. That was the big thing for the week."
Q: You also write children's and young adult books like "Middle School" and "Maximum Ride." Is that an important audience for you to reach?
A: "It's not the school's job to get the kids reading. It's the parents' job, but parents won't do it. They just won't bite the bullet and say 'you gotta read.' So that's what got me into it. If we don't get kids reading, our country is going to be in a worse mess than it is."
(Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Maureen Bavdek)