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Richard Matheson dies: A look back at his big-screen legacy

Richard Matheson (Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times)

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957): Grant Williams plays Scott Carey, a man who begins to shrink after being exposed to radiation and insecticide, in this adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1956 novel "The Shrinking Man." (AMC)

"The Last Man on Earth" (1964): Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, who survives a plague that turns humanity into vampires, in this adaptation of Matheson's 1954 novel "I Am Legend." (Los Angeles Times Archive)

"The Omega Man" (1971): Also based on Matheson's "I Am Legend," this adaptation starred Charlton Heston as the protagonist, Army Dr. Robert Neville. (Los Angeles Times Archive)

"The Legend of Hell House" (1973): John Hough directed this adaptation of Matheson's ghost story "Hell House." (Handout)

"Somewhere in Time" (1980): Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve starred in this time-travel romance, an adaptation of Matheson's 1975 novel "Bid Time Return." (Universal Studios)

"Jaws 3-D" (1983): Matheson penned the screenplay for this sequel, in which a 35-foot shark gets trapped in a theme park. (Nuart Theatre)

"Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983): Vic Morrow is shown in a scene from the film, which finally saw some of Matheson's "Twilight Zone" stories on the big screen. (TV Land)

"What Dreams May Come" (1998): Robin Williams plays a dead man who searches for his wife in the afterlife in this film based on Matheson's 1978 novel of the same name. (NBC)

"Stir of Echoes" (1999): Based in Matheson's 1958 novel "A Stir of Echoes," this mystery starred Kevin Bacon as a blue-collar worker haunted by visions of a ghost girl. (Michael P. Weinstein / Artisan Entertainment)

"I Am Legend" (2007): In yet another adaptation of Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, Will Smith plays the vampire-hunting protagonist Robert Neville. (Warner Bros.)

"The Box" (2009): Richard Kelly directed this film, based on Matheson's 1970 short story "Button, Button." In the film, James Marsden and Cameron Diaz play a couple who are given a box and told that opening it will grant them $1 million, but kill someone they don't know. (Dale Robinette / Warner Bros.)

"Real Steel" (2011): This robot boxing film, starring Hugh Jackman and Charlie Kenton, is based on Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel." (DreamWorks Pictures)

Science-fiction writer Richard Matheson died on Sunday at age 87, leaving a legacy of some of the best genre storytelling in literature, television and film.

Matheson’s prolific career includes dozens of novels and more than 100 short stories, not to mention screenplays for the big and small screens. Among Matheson’s works are “A Stir of Echoes,” “Ride the Nightmare” and his 1954 novel “I Am Legend” (on which no less than three movies were based, including the 2007 Will Smith feature), as well as many of “The Twilight Zone’s” most memorable episodes, such as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Matheson also wrote several Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, including “House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven,” for filmmaker Roger Corman.

Matheson had been scheduled to receive the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films’ Visionary Award during the Saturn Awards on Wednesday. The award will be presented posthumously, and the event will now be dedicated to him.

“We are heartbroken to lose a writer of towering talent, unlimited imagination and unparalleled inspiration,” said Robert Holguin, president of the academy, in a statement. “Richard was a genius whose visions helped bring legitimacy and critical acclaim to science fiction and fantasy…. Richard’s accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work.”

Among the many creators the writer influenced are Stephen King, who cites Matheson as his greatest influence as an author, and Steven Spielberg, whose early film “Duel” is based on Matheson’s short story of the same name.

“Richard Matheson’s ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break,” Spielberg said in a statement released Monday. “For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov.”

Spielberg wasn’t the only creative heavyweight to mourn Matheson’s passing. Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Neil Gaiman, John Lithgow and others took to Twitter to remember the writer’s legacy. Check out their tweets below. Click through the gallery above for a look at some of Matheson’s memorable silver screen contributions. And read more about his career on our sister blog, Movies Now.

— Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark


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