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Michael Crichton

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Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton
Personal details
Birth place Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of death November 4, 2008
Profession Author
Motion picture writer and producer
Years active 1971 to 2008
IMDb 0000341
ER
Role Executive Producer
Creator
Writer
Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, & 15
First episode "24 Hours"
Last episode "And in the End..."
Credits 331 episodes (see below)
Michael Crichton, (October 23, 1942- November 4, 2008), was an American author and motion picture writer and producer. He is the creator of ER. He wrote the series pilot episode "24 Hours" based on his experiences as a medical student. He was credited as an Executive Producer throughout its fifteen season run and often credited as being the one who created "ER". His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films. He also wrote the novels Jurassic Park, Lost World, and Twister which were adapted into the films Jurassic Park (1993), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and Twister (1996). In 1994, Crichton became the only creative artist ever to have works simultaneously charting at #1 in television, film, and book sales (with ER, Jurassic Park, and Disclosure, respectively).

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

John Michael Crichton was born in Chicago Illinois, to John Henderson Crichton, a journalist, and Zula Miller Crichton, on October 23, 1942. He was raised on Long Island, in Roslyn, New York, and had three siblings: two sisters, Kimberly and Catherine, and a younger brother, Douglas. Crichton showed a keen interest in writing from a young age and at the age of 14 had a column related to travel published in The New York Times. Crichton had always planned on becoming a writer and began his studies at Harvard College in 1960. During his undergraduate study in literature, he conducted an experiment to expose a professor whom he believed to be giving him abnormally low marks and criticizing his literary style. Informing another professor of his suspicions, Crichton plagiarized a work by George Orwell and submitted it as his own. The paper was returned by his unwitting professor with a mark of "B−". His issues with the English department led Crichton to switch his concentration to biological anthropology as an undergraduate, obtaining his A.B. summa cum laude in 1964. He was also initiated into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He went on to become the Henry Russell Shaw Traveling Fellow from 1964 to 1965 and Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1965.

Crichton later enrolled at Harvard Medical School, when he began publishing work. By this time he had become exceptionally tall. By his own account, he was approximately 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) tall in 1997. In reference to his height, while in medical school, he began writing novels under the pen names "John Lange" and "Jeffrey Hudson" ("Lange" is a surname in Germany, meaning "long", and Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous 17th-century dwarf in the court of Queen Consort Henrietta Maria of England). In Travels, he recalls overhearing doctors who were unaware that he was the author, discussing the flaws in his book The Andromeda Strain. A Case of Need, written under the Hudson pseudonym, won him his first Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1969. He also co-authored Dealing with his younger brother Douglas under the shared pen name "Michael Douglas". The back cover of that book carried a picture, taken by their mother, of Michael and Douglas when very young.

During his clinical rotations at the Boston City Hospital, Crichton grew disenchanted with the culture there, which appeared to emphasize the interests and reputations of doctors over the interests of patients. Crichton graduated from Harvard, obtaining an M.D. in 1969, and undertook a post-doctoral fellowship study at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, from 1969 to 1970. He never obtained a license to practice medicine, devoting himself to his writing career instead.

CareerEdit

AuthorEdit

Odds On was Michael Crichton's first published novel. It was published in 1966, under the pseudonym of John Lange. It is a 215-page paperback novel which describes an attempted robbery in an isolated hotel on Costa Brava. The robbery is planned scientifically with the help of a Critical Path Analysis computer program, but unforeseen events get in the way.

The following year, he published Scratch One. The novel relates the story of Roger Carr, a handsome, charming and privileged man who practices law, more as a means to support his playboy lifestyle than a career. Carr is sent to Nice, France, where he has notable political connections, but is mistaken for an assassin and finds his life in jeopardy, implicated in the world of terrorism.

In 1968, he published two novels, Easy Go and A Case of Need, the second of which was re-published in 1993, under his real name. Easy Go relates the story of Harold Barnaby, a brilliant Egyptologist, who discovers a concealed message while translating hieroglyphics, informing him of an unnamed Pharaoh whose tomb is yet to be discovered. A Case of Need, on the other hand, was a medical thriller in which a Boston pathologist, Dr. John Berry, investigates an apparent illegal abortion conducted by an obstetrician friend, which caused the early demise of a young woman. The novel would prove a turning point in Crichton's future novels, in which technology is important in the subject matter, although this novel was as much about medical practice. The novel earned him an Edgar Award in 1969.

In 1969, Crichton published three novels. The first, Zero Cool, dealt with an American radiologist on vacation in Spain who is caught in a murderous crossfire between rival gangs seeking a precious artifact. The second, The Andromeda Strain, would prove to be the most important novel of his career and establish him as a best-selling author. The novel documented the efforts of a team of scientists investigating a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism that fatally clots human blood, infecting the sufferer and causing death within two minutes. The microbe, code named "Andromeda", mutates with each growth cycle, changing its biological properties. The novel became an instant success, and it was only two years before the novel was sought after by film producers and turned into the 1971 film under the direction of Robert Wise and featuring Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid as Leavitt, and David Wayne. In September 2004, the Sci Fi Channel would announce a production of a miniseries, executive-produced by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Frank Darabont, premiering on May 26, 2008. Crichton's third novel of 1969, The Venom Business relates the story of a smuggler who uses his exceptional skill as a snake handler to his advantage by importing snakes to be used by drug companies and universities for medical research. The snakes are simply a ruse to hide the presence of rare Mexican artifacts. In 1969, Crichton also wrote a review for The New Republic (as J. Michael Crichton), critiquing Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

In 1970, Crichton again published three novels: Drug of Choice, Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues and Grave Descend. Grave Descend earned him an Edgar Award nomination the following year.

In 1972, Crichton published two novels. The first, Binary, relates the story of a villainous middle-class businessman, who attempts to assassinate the President of the United States by stealing an army shipment of the two precursor chemicals that form a deadly nerve agent. The second, The Terminal Man, is about a psychomotor epileptic sufferer, Harry Benson, who in regularly suffering seizures followed by blackouts, conducts himself inappropriately during seizures, waking up hours later with no knowledge of what he has done. Believed to be psychotic, he is investigated; electrodes are implanted in his brain, continuing the preoccupation in Crichton's novels with machine-human interaction and technology. The novel was adapted into a film directed by Mike Hodges and starring George Segal, Joan Hackett, Richard A. Dysart and Donald Moffat, released in June 1974. However, neither the novel nor the film was well received by critics.d]

In 1975, Crichton ventured into the nineteenth century with his historical novel The Great Train Robbery, which would become a bestseller. The novel is a recreation of the Great Gold Robbery of 1855, a massive gold heist, which takes place on a train traveling through Victorian era England. A considerable proportion of the book was set in London. The novel was later made into a 1979 film directed by Crichton himself, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland. The film would go on to be nominated for Best Cinematography Award by the British Society of Cinematographers, also garnering an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture by the Mystery Writers Association of America.

In 1976, Crichton published Eaters of the Dead, a novel about a tenth-century Muslim who travels with a group of Vikings to their settlement. Eaters of the Dead is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript and was inspired by two sources. The first three chapters retell Ahmad ibn Fadlan's personal account of his journey north and his experiences in encountering the Rus', the early Russian peoples, whilst the remainder is based upon the story of Beowulf, culminating in battles with the 'mist-monsters', or 'wendol', a relict group of Neanderthals. The novel was adapted into film as The 13th Warrior, initially directed by John McTiernan, who was later fired with Crichton himself taking over direction.

In 1980, Crichton published the novel Congo, which centers on an expedition searching for diamonds in the tropical rain forest of Congo. They discover the legendary lost city of Zinj and an unusual race of barbarous gorillas. The novel was loosely adapted into a 1995 film, starring Laura Linney, Tim Curry, and Ernie Hudson.

Seven years later, Crichton published Sphere, a novel which relates the story of psychologist Norman Johnson, who is required by the U.S. Navy to join a team of scientists assembled by the U.S. Government to examine an enormous alien spacecraft discovered on the bed of the Pacific Ocean, and believed to have been there for over 300 years. The novel begins as a science fiction story, but rapidly changes into a psychological thriller, ultimately exploring the nature of the human imagination. The novel was adapted into the film Sphere in 1998, directed by Barry Levinson, with a cast including Dustin Hoffman as Norman Johnson, (renamed Norman Goodman), Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schreiber and Sharon Stone.

In 1990, Crichton published the novel Jurassic Park. Crichton utilized the presentation of "fiction as fact", used in his previous novels, Eaters of the Dead and The Andromeda Strain. In addition, chaos theory and its philosophical implications are used to explain the collapse of an amusement park in a "biological preserve" on Isla Nublar, an island west of Costa Rica. Paleontologist Alan Grant and his paleobotanist graduate student, Ellie Sattler, are brought in by billionaire John Hammond to investigate. The park is revealed to contain genetically recreated dinosaur species, including Dilophosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus rex, among others. They have been recreated using damaged dinosaur DNA, found in mosquitoes that sucked Saurian blood and were then trapped and preserved in amber.

Crichton had originally conceived a screenplay about a graduate student who recreates a dinosaur, but decided to explore his fascination with dinosaurs and cloning until he began writing the novel. Spielberg learned of the novel in October 1989, while he and Crichton were discussing a screenplay that would become the television series ER. Before the book was published, Crichton demanded a non-negotiable fee of $1.5 million as well as a substantial percentage of the gross. Warner Bros. and Tim Burton, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Richard Donner, and 20th Century Fox and Joe Dante bid for the rights, but Universal eventually acquired them in May 1990, for Spielberg. Universal paid Crichton a further $500,000 to adapt his own novel, which he had completed by the time Spielberg was filming Hook. Crichton noted that because the book was "fairly long", his script only had about 10–20 percent of the novel's content. The film, directed by Spielberg, was eventually released in 1993, starring Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm (the chaos theorist), and Richard Attenborough, as John Hammond, the billionaire CEO, of InGen. The film would go on to become extremely successful.

In 1992, Crichton published the novel Rising Sun, an international best-selling crime thriller about a murder in the Los Angeles headquarters of Nakamoto, a fictional Japanese corporation. The book was instantly adapted into a film, released the same year of the movie adaption of Jurassic Park in 1993, and starring Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Tia Carrere and Harvey Keitel.

His next novel, Disclosure, published in 1994, addresses the theme of sexual harassment previously explored in his 1972 Binary. Unlike that novel however, Crichton centers on sexual politics in the workplace, emphasizing an array of paradoxes in traditional gender functions, by featuring a male protagonist who is being sexually harassed by a female executive. As a result, the book has been harshly criticized by feminist commentators and accused of anti-feminism. Crichton, anticipating this response, offered a rebuttal at the close of the novel which states that a "role-reversal" story uncovers aspects of the subject that would not be as easily seen with a female protagonist. The novel was made into a film the same year under the helm of Barry Levinson, and starring Michael Douglas, Demi Moore and Donald Sutherland.

Crichton then published The Lost World in 1995, as the sequel to Jurassic Park. It was made into a film sequel two years later in 1997, again directed by Spielberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn and Pete Postlethwaite.

Then, in 1996, Crichton published Airframe, an aero-techno-thriller which relates the story of a quality assurance vice-president at the fictional aerospace manufacturer Norton Aircraft, as she investigates an in-flight accident aboard a Norton-manufactured airliner that leaves three passengers dead and fifty-six injured. Again, Crichton uses the false document literary device, presenting numerous technical documents to create a sense of authenticity. In the novel, Crichton draws from real life accidents to increase its sensation of realism, including American Airlines Flight 191 and Aeroflot Flight 593; the latter flew from Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport and crashed on its way to Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport in 1994. Crichton challenges the public perception of air safety and the consequences of exaggerated media reports to sell the story. The book also continues Crichton's overall theme of the failure of humans in human-machine interaction, given that the plane itself worked perfectly and the accident would not have occurred had the pilot reacted properly.

In 1999, Crichton published Timeline, a science fiction novel which tells the story of a team of historians and archaeologists studying a site in the Dordogne region of France, where the medieval towns of Castelgard and La Roque stood. They time travel back to 1357 to uncover some startling truths. The novel, which continues Crichton's long history of combining technical details and action in his books, addresses quantum physics and time travel directly and received a warm welcome from medieval scholars, who praised his depiction of the challenges in studying the Middle Ages.

The novel quickly spawned Timeline Computer Entertainment, a computer game developer that created the Timeline PC game published by Eidos Interactive in 2000. A film based on the book was released in 2003, by Paramount Pictures, with a screen adaptation by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, under the direction of Richard Donner. The film stars Paul Walker, Gerard Butler and Frances O'Connor.

In 2002, Crichton published Prey, a cautionary tale about developments in science and technology; specifically nanotechnology. The novel explores relatively recent phenomena engendered by the work of the scientific community, such as artificial life, emergence (and by extension, complexity), genetic algorithms, and agent-based computing. Reiterating components in many of his other novels, Crichton once again devises fictional companies, this time Xymos, a nanorobotics company which is claimed to be on the verge of perfecting a revolutionary new medical imaging technology based on nanotechnology and a rival company, MediaTronics.

In 2004, Crichton published State of Fear, a novel concerning eco-terrorists who attempt mass murder to support their views. Global warming and climate change serve as a central theme to the novel, and in Appendix I of the book, Crichton warns both sides of the global warming debate against the politicization of science. He provides two examples of the disastrous combination of pseudo-science and politics, the early 20th-century idea of eugenics, which allowed for the Holocaust, and Lysenkoism. The novel had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and reached the #1 bestseller position at Amazon.com and #2 on The New York Times Best Seller list for one week in January 2005.

The last novel published while he was still living was Next, printed in 2006. The novel follows many characters, including transgenic animals, in the quest to survive in a world dominated by genetic research, corporate greed, and legal interventions, wherein government and private investors spend billions of dollars every year on genetic research.

His last novel, Pirate Latitudes, was originally scheduled for a release date of December 2, 2008. However, it was postponed until November 24, 2009. Additionally, an unfinished novel, titled Micro, was published on November 22, 2011. The novel has been co-written by Richard Preston.

ScreenwriterEdit

Crichton wrote or directed several motion pictures and episodes of TV series. In the 1970s in particular he was intent on being a successful filmmaker. His first film, Pursuit (1972), was a TV movie both written and directed by Crichton that is based on his novel Binary.

Westworld was the first feature film that used 2D computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Crichton directed the film Coma, adapted from a Robin Cook novel. There are other similarities in terms of genre and the fact that both Cook and Crichton had medical degrees, were of similar age, and wrote about similar subjects.

Other major releases directed by Crichton include The Great Train Robbery (1979), Looker (1981), Runaway (1984), and Physical Evidence (1989). The middle two films were science fiction, set in the very near future at the time, and included particularly flashy styles of filmmaking, for their time.

He wrote the screenplay for the movies Extreme Close Up (1973) and Twister (1996), the latter co-written with Anne-Marie Martin, his wife at the time. While Jurassic Park and The Lost World were both based on Crichton's novels, Jurassic Park III was not (though scenes from the Jurassic Park novel were incorporated into the third film, such as the aviary).

Crichton was also the creator and executive producer of the television drama ER. He had written what became the pilot script in 1974. Twenty years later Steven Spielberg helped develop the show, serving as a producer on season one and offering advice (he insisted on Julianna Margulies becoming a regular, for example). It was also through Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment that John Wells was contacted to be the show's executive producer. In 1994, Crichton achieved the unique distinction of having a #1 movie, Jurassic Park, a #1 TV show, ER, and a #1 book, Disclosure.

Personal lifeEdit

CreditsEdit

WriterEdit

Executive ProducerEdit

External links Edit

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