Ken Kesey’s Screenplay Suit

Portland, Ore., alt-weekly Willamette Week has an extensive story about the legal squabbling over Last Go Round, a screenplay about an Oregon rodeo written by Ken Kesey. Kesey was commissioned to write the script in 1983 by MiSchelle McMindes and Mike Hagen, who had done some research into the event; the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author delivered a manuscript, but the question of who owns the rights to it has been much argued-over and deposed-over in the years since.

Stories about dead writers (Kesey died in 2001) and estate battles are rarely very engaging. But the story does reveal some of the reasons why Kesey soured on writing fiction:

“Kesey abandoned prose as ‘archaic’ and set off to make The Movie,” says Mark Christensen, a Los Angeles writer and former WW staffer who’s completing a study of Kesey, Timothy Leary and other ’60s narcotics gurus titled Acid Christ for Schaffner Press. “He bought into the dream, which is the old cliché of Hollywood: What I really want to do is direct. In other words, he wanted into the movie business! This was in the wave of all that French New Wave shit, where people literally believed the novel was dead, and cinema was going to be the new medium. And Kesey bought that dream.”

The story also includes video of a feature by Oregon Public Broadcasting that captures Kesey in 2001 expounding on visual arts at the expense of more writerly ones: “So much of the writer’s effort has gone into decorating the place—setting the scene, getting the lighting just right, putting the sofa there so it frames that one area of the room,” he says at one point. “A lot of what we think of as storytelling is just window dressing.” Video here:

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