Profile of the Artist: R.C. Matheson

0
258
Along with TV and film screenplays, R.C. Matheson has authored numerous short story collections and novels.

I recently sat down over a late lunch at Spruzzo’s with Richard Christian Matheson, the multitalented and prolific screenwriter, producer, novelist and short story writer, to learn what he is currently up to. Known as R.C. to differentiate himself from his late and legendary father Richard Matheson, the son is living proof the acorn doesn’t grow far from the oak tree. 

In reading “Dystopia,” his best selling collection of short stories, “SCARS and Other Distinguishing Marks” or his novel “Created By,” it’s evident why Matheson merits critical acclaim. 

“Rather than going for the bloodletting,” he said, “I prefer to explore psychological depths.” Contrasting himself to many contemporary horror writers, Matheson said in a Penthouse interview, “If they are the blade that opens the flesh, I am the needle that injects the virus.” “Dystopia,” and Matheson’s vast multitude of other surreal short stories of psychological horror that appear in over 200 major anthologies, illustrate his nuanced approach to horror.

A longtime resident of Malibu, Matheson has an engaging smile, easy laugh and completely lacks the dark nature one might expect from some of his writings. But that’s because he is so much more than simply a writer of horror. Matheson has eclectic tastes, and he is as comfortable writing comedy, drama and mystery as he is writing horror. 

He spoke enthusiastically about his two loves — writing and music — and how his works connect the two. Matheson points out, “Words for me are like musical notes with their own rhythm, and I enjoy using them in unexpected ways.” 

On the rare occasion when he is not writing, Matheson, a studio musician who studied one-on-one with Ginger Baker of Cream, is banging away at his drums in Ink, a band of other writers. 

“I only sleep five or six hours a night. I understand I am a workaholic,” he said. 

He writes fast, and coffee is his frequent companion. Since following his father into the entertainment business 41 years ago, Matheson has written or co-written hundreds of scripts for television, screenplays for film, books and short stories. He has also produced and co-produced scores of shows. He and his production company, Matheson Entertainment, own more than 100 properties, but he makes it clear, “Although I love producing, writing is in my DNA. I readily admit I would write even if there were no money in it.” 

Matheson can write thrilling dialogue like in his short story “Mobius” or adapt Stephen King’s “Battleground” for television without a word ever being spoken in the entire film. He published his first short story when he was 18 and soon after became the youngest writer to sign a deal with Universal Studios. 

“I have worked for virtually every studio in town,” he told me. 

Whether story editor for the critically acclaimed “Quincy M.E.” at the age of 21 or co-writer for “Three O’Clock High,” a cult favorite feature film bought by Steven Spielberg, Matheson brings to his work a style often combining elements of surprise and the supernatural. 

Matheson has no intention of resting on his laurels, and is currently working on six projects including writing and co-executive producing H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine” as a 4-hour miniseries, but no project means more to him than the one he started years ago with his father — the co-scripting and executive producing of “The Shrinking Man” as a feature film for MGM. 

Originally written as a novel by his father and later adapted for film as “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” this new version of the film would have been the seventh film he collaborated on with his father. Richard Matheson died in 2013, and his son continues to finish the work. 

R.C. was always (and he would say still is) extremely close to his father. Now the patriarch of the family, he works on his own greatest fear — that of loss. 

“I have lost friends, and now my closest friend, my father, has passed on, but I am convinced there is a life after death, which makes the prospect of mortality less frightening.”

As if all of this weren’t enough Matheson’ s Hollywood, magic-real ism novella, “The Ritual of Illusion” was just published in London, and a new short story collection, “Zoopraxis,” will be out early this year to be followed by a new suspense novel, “Paranoia.” He also wrote and co-executive produced Stephen King’s “Big Driver,” starring Maria Bello, Olympia Dukakis and Joan Jett. It will be released any day now in DVD format. 

To learn more about R.C. Matheson, visit rcmatheson.com.