Mention Edgar Allan Poe to most anyone and they'll likely conjure images of black ravens, tell-tale hearts, premature burials and haunted palaces. With The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), the short-story writer, poet, editor and literary critic invented modern detective fiction, and his often-macabre work is still widely studied in schools today.
In the movie The Raven, opening Friday, John Cusack plays the legendary author, who teams with a young Baltimore detective to investigate a series of crimes perpetrated by a serial killer using Poe's writings as inspiration.
With this in mind, we thought it'd be fun to scare up a list of other films in which famous writers play prominent roles.
J.M. Barrie (1860-1937)
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'Finding Neverland' (2004, PG)
Inspired by his friendship with the Davies boys, whom he later assumed guardianship of, J.M. Barrie created the ultimate fantasy in Peter Pan, a rambunctious boy who can fly and never grows up. In the film, Johnny Depp plays the Scottish novelist and playwright as a sincere, soft-spoken, highly imaginative, seemingly asexual man-child, playing games with the boys, making faces, dressing in silly costumes and wrestling with a large stuffed bear.
Depp as Barrie is believable and moving, and, despite his unconventional relationship with the Davies family, he never seems creepy or inappropriate. Kate Winslet as the boys' mother, Sylvia Davies, complements Depp's performance nicely.
Truman Capote (1924-1984)
'Capote' (2005, Rated R)
Best known for the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), which was made into a film starring Audrey Hepburn, and the "true crime novel" In Cold Blood (1966), which was adapted into three films and a TV miniseries, the diminutive, openly gay Truman Capote was also an acclaimed short-story writer and a popular talk show guest.
Capote chronicles the writer's time researching and writing In Cold Blood, a project he poured himself into mind, body and (tortured) soul, interviewing police officers, the killers and neighbors of the murdered family. Philip Seymour Hoffman's uncanny portrayal of the toddler-voiced writer truly captures the quirky qualities that made Capote unique.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
'Midnight in Paris' (2011, PG-13)
At the 2011 Cannes Film Festival press conference for Midnight in Paris, writer/director Woody Allen talked about his satirical characterizations of Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali and other Jazz Age writers and artists. "I wasn't trying to make them meaningful and deep and profound," he said. "I was just trying to make them amusing and entertaining."
As Hemingway, Corey Stoll is an egotistical, combative, hard-drinking caricature of the author, speaking in bold, cinematic proclamations and challenging aspiring novelist Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) to a boxing match to determine who is the better writer. Hemingway, who revolutionized 20th-century fiction with his terse, direct style, has never been so amusing.
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
'Shadowlands' (1993, PG)
Clive Staples Lewis was both a contemporary of fellow novelist J.R.R. Tolkien and a leading Christian apologist, penning such classics as The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain and the "Chronicles of Narnia" fantasy series. He was also a distinguished professor at Oxford University.
Much like the man himself was reputed to be, Shadowlands, featuring the great Anthony Hopkins as Lewis, is quiet, understated, cerebral and contemplative. Romantic interest Joy Gresham, an American fan of Lewis played beautifully by Debra Winger, helps the author unbutton his buttoned-up life, making the dour dramatist shine in subtle and charming ways.
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
'Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle' (1994, R)
The most famous member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, which was a group of Roaring Twenties-era intellectuals who met regularly for lunch and recorded their verbal exploits in print, Dorothy Parker is remembered for her quick wit, caustic poetry, satirical short stories and fondness for alcohol. She was also quite beautiful.
Jennifer Jason Leigh's portrayal of Parker, who wrote for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and other highbrow magazines, is sharp-tongued and knowingly smart and sexy, seducing the camera (she's clearly the centerpiece of the film), the other characters in the movie and, most importantly, the audience.
Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)
'Miss Potter' (2006, PG)
Beatrix Potter, who plied her trade in Victorian England, was much more than the creator of such beloved children's books as The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), The Tailor of Gloucester (1903) and Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes (1922). She also collected fossils, raised sheep, drew and painted bugs (entomology was one of her favorite areas of study) and actively participated in conservationism.
In Miss Potter, Renée Zellweger pours herself into the title role, giving viewers a quirky and likable author/illustrator to cheer for. Directed by Chris Noonan ( Babe), the film includes brief animations that help Potter's artistic vision come alive.
Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
'Quills' (2000, R)
The infamous Marquis de Sade, writer of novels, plays, political tracts, short stories and violence-infused erotica, was a notorious hedonist, frequenter of prostitutes and blasphemer (a serious crime 200-plus years ago), living nearly one-third of his life locked in prisons and an insane asylum (today, he'd probably receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame).
In Quills, Geoffrey Rush plays the licentious libertine during his still-sadistic (a term derived from de Sade's name) senior years at the famous Charenton asylum. Like most biopics, Quills plays fast and loose with history, but it's true that de Sade wrote much of his material while tucked safely away from polite society.
Jerry Stahl (1953-)
Jerry Stahl may not be a household name, but he has certainly made an imprint on popular culture, writing episodes of ALF, Moonlighting, thirtysomething, Twin Peaks and, most notably, CSI (including the controversial "King Baby" episode, which dealt with infantilism).
Permanent Midnight is based on Stahl's 2005 autobiography, which deals with the troubled writer's $6,000-a-week heroin habit (contrast this with his $5,000-per-week salary) and his tendency to be high during TV script conferences. Ben Stiller, primarily known for his comedic roles, plays Stahl convincingly, especially when it comes to getting across the miserable desperation of addiction and withdrawal.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
'The Hours' (2002, PG-13)
Along with such intellectuals as economist John Maynard Keynes and novelist E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf belonged to the Bloomsbury Set, a group of artistic types who got together on a regular basis in and around Bloomsbury, London, during the first half of the 20th century. An early feminist, Woolf is famous for writing the lengthy essay A Room of One's Own (1929), along with the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928).
In The Hours, a truly gloomy film, Nicole Kidman masterfully transforms herself, literally (down to the bulbous nose) and figuratively, into Woolf, who battled depression throughout her life, ultimately committing suicide. Kudos to Kidman for her willingness to be unattractive onscreen.
Ed Wood (1924-1978)
'Ed Wood' (1994, R)
Like Orson Welles, Ed Wood wrote, directed, produced and acted in many of his own films. Unlike Welles, however, Wood had little discernible talent, helming such so-bad-they're-entertaining bombs as Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), the last of which was immortalized in an episode of Seinfeld ("The Chinese Restaurant"). Wood also penned a number of dreadful paperback originals, all of which are rare and highly sought after by collectors.
Tim Burton's Ed Wood is a marvelous film, with Johnny Depp absolutely nailing the title role of the eccentric, naively optimistic, angora-wearing auteur. Especially fun are the scenes re-enacting some of Wood's more infamous movies.