Entertainment & Arts

I Am Legend author Richard Matheson dies

Richard Matheson
Image caption Matheson also worked as a writer on numerous TV shows

US sci-fi and fantasy writer Richard Matheson, who wrote the 1954 vampire novel I Am Legend, has died aged 87.

A spokesman for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films said Matheson died on Sunday in Los Angeles, but no other details were provided.

In a career spanning some 60 years, many of the author's works were adapted for both the big and small screens.

I Am Legend was his most successful, inspiring four film adaptations - most recently in 2007 starring Will Smith.

The novel was considered a landmark work in the genre, ushering in apocalyptic themes to post-WWII America.

Vincent Price starred in the first adaptation in 1964, titled as The Last Man on Earth.

Charlton Heston later starred in the 1971 adaptation, Omega Man.

The 2007 version saw Smith star as Robert Neville - the seemingly last human on Earth - trying to find a cure for a genetically-engineered virus that has turned the population into mutant vampiric creatures.

A low-budget adaptation I Am Omega was released the same year.

Born in Allendale, New Jersey, in 1926 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Matheson first began publishing science-fiction and horror stories in the 1950s.

His earlier works adapted into films included 1953 novel Hell House, 1956's The Shrinking Man and 1958's A Stir of Echoes.

The 1978 novel What Dreams May Come was also adapted into a big screen version in 1998 starring Robin Williams, which won an Oscar for best visual effects.

Steven Spielberg's first feature-length film, Duel, was also based on Matheson's short story of the same name.

Spielberg tribute

"Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for Duel," Spielberg said in a statement.

"His Twilight Zones were among my favourites, and he recently worked with us on Real Steel. For me, he is in the same category as [Ray] Bradbury and [Isaac] Asimov."

Matheson also worked as a writer for numerous TV shows including The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Martian Chronicles and Amazing Stories.

He penned the teleplay Nightmare at 20,000 Feet in 1963 for The Twilight Zone, which starred William Shatner and featured the famous shot of a gremlin peering into the window of an aeroplane from its wing.

He was also responsible for writing The Twilight Zone episode Steel, which inspired the 2011 Hugh Jackman film, Reel Steel.

Image caption Will Smith starred in the 2007 film version of I Am Legend

Matheson is credited with influencing several generations of storytellers including Stephen King, who dedicated his 2006 novel, Cell, to him.

Matheson had been due to receive the visionary award at the Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films' Saturn Awards on Wednesday.

The organisation said the award would be presented posthumously and ceremony would be dedicated to the author.

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