KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Cormac McCarthy, one of America’s most acclaimed modern writers who spend many years living in and around Knoxville, may finally have his most lauded novel adapted into a film after several failed attempts.
McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933. His family moved to Knoxville, where his father was a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority when he was four. He graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School. According to the Cormac McCarthy Society, he twice attended the University of Tennessee from 1951-1953 and 1957-1959, but did not obtain a degree.
He’s been hailed by literary experts as one of the greatest contemporary American writers. His 1992 book All the Pretty Horses received both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His 2006 novel The Road received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
His first novel The Orchard Keeper is set in the South Knox County area with scenes in downtown Knoxville. The 1979 semi-autobiographical novel Suttree is set in Knoxville and features a rich description of the city in the early 1950s.
“Cormac McCarthy is just a fascinating figure on multiple levels. He’s been compared to William Faulkner. He has described Knoxville in extremely vivid detail, not often flattering detail.” Knoxville History Project Executive Director Jack Neely said. “Suttree makes Knoxville seem really fascinating in kind of the way James Joyce made Dublin seem fascinating without ever saying a nice thing about it.”
Several of his books have already been adapted to film or television, none more famously than 2007 Oscar Best Picture Award winner No Country for Old Men.
Neely said McCarthy wrote four novels when he lived in Knoxville and worked on Blood Meridian in the early 80s when living in a motel in the Bearden area. The novel is set in the 1840s and follows a fictional teen from Tennessee in the brutal American Western frontier. It is regarded as one of the greatest American novels ever and has been called the Great American Novel by some.
Deadline reported in April that New Regency Productions is adapting Blood Meridian into a feature film directed by John Hillcoat, who directed the film adaptation of McCarthy’s book The Road.
According to screenrant.com, failed attempts by filmmakers to adapt the book date back to 1995. Tommy Lee Jones, Ridley Scott and James Franco have tried and failed to do so. Even Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone have been rumored to have unsuccessfully attempted an adaptation due to its intense violence.
A 1992 book review in the New York Times said Blood Meridian, “may be the bloodiest book since ‘The Iliad.’“
Neely said that the latest adaptation attempt may be different now that McCarthy occupies a greater place in American culture than ever before. Deadline reported that he and his son, John Francis McCarthy, will serve as executive producers on the project.
While the Wild West has been a frequent subject in American entertainment, Neely said that McCarthy’s unique style of prose, deep psychological analysis of complex characters and vivid realism make Blood Meridian unlike most Western films or shows.
It remains to be seen whether this adaptation of Blood Meridian will prove successful. No casting information or possible release date has been announced yet.
Watch the complete interview with Jack Neely above as he discusses McCarthy’s upbringing, what Knoxville was like at the time, and what has made Blood Meridian both desirable and challenging for filmmakers.