New details are coming out of Hollywood about the literary legacy of popular author, E. Lynn Harris. Insiders reveal there’s a mad dash to figure out who owns the rights to Harris’ remarkable 12-book catalogue and his two soon-to-be-released novels. With profitable assets, a cross-over audience and renewed public interest in his works since his death, could the E. Lynn Harris brand become the next big thing in urban entertainment?
By some estimates, Harris’ 14-book collection as a franchise of motion pictures, television movies, DVDs and Broadway musicals could fetch anywhere from $100-$250 million over the next 30 years.
According to one Hollywood source close to the author, “a few years ago he sold off all of his rights and was really acting as a creative partner in these projects.” Hence the legacy of one of America’s foremost African-American authors, who adeptly explored the intersection of race, sexuality and spirituality, lies within the hands of an unknown corporate entity.
“Getting there is going to be the tricky part,” explains famous Hollywood attorney Nina Shaw. She cautions that the “upswing” can be achieved, but it will depend chiefly upon “how strategic and how sophisticated his estate and executors ultimately are in their ability to traverse the landscape in the entertainment industry.” She adds that much like Tyler Perry’s work, Harris’ books come with a built-in audience and it will be a process to convince Hollywood that his audience already exists and can be extracted.
Marva Allen, managing partner and co-owner of the Harlem-based Hue-Man Bookstore, knows firsthand the strength of E. Lynn Harris’ brand. “He had a huge female following. More followers than I can remember of an author in a long time.” She added that Harris “touched a genre that needed to happen in Black America. He had a great cross-section of people who loved his work. There’s definitely an audience for his books if made into films.” Allen also reports a huge surge in book requests since the author’s death.
So will we finally see Harris’ work on the silver screen? Well, the answer literally was being played out a few weeks ago until the day the bestselling author died. Despite fainting on a train en route to Tinseltown to solidify his book-to-movie dreams, Harris typed that he was “soldiering on” in a text message to an assistant. Once he arrived in Los Angeles, he met with producer Tracey Edmonds just hours before he died.
One insider reports that Harris “basically blessed the project” for the film adaptation of "Invisible Life," his first novel, which shot Harris to fame in 1994. There are reportedly also two finished scripts, one which focuses on the college years and the other on the New York City years of characters Raymond, Nicole and Basil.
Other finished scripts include "Not A Day Goes By" and "I Say A Little Prayer." In September, the novel "Mama Dearest," which is the follow-up to "Not A Day Goes By," hits bookstores. And the first of a new book series Harris had just created titled, "The Bentley Chronicles," arrives in 2010.
It’s also been confirmed that Harris reserved the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. for a 4-week run in 2010 for "Invisible Life (The Musical)," which was being primed for an eventual Broadway run. So important was this project that the music was written by the legendary duo Ashford & Simpson and the script written by August Wilson’s protégé, Javon Johnson.
And eerily, Harris told an assistant he had received a creative vision to end the "Invisible Life" book series with a novel titled, "Upon My Demise."
With multiple creative irons in the fire, was Harris finally able secure a franchise film deal with television and Broadway musicals attached?
“The answer is complicated,” says the source. But in the next few weeks, he says, fans of E. Lynn Harris’ work may finally get news on the film adaptation of a genre of fiction that literally knocked down taboos and transcended stigma in order to become part of the social fabric of Black America.