Oprah Online - February 12, 1997

Online Host: MCrich9334 has entered the room.

MCrich9334: Hi everybody.

Online Host: From "The Andromeda Strain" to "Jurassic Park", chances are good that you've felt the impact of Michael Crichton's incredible body of work. Most of America cancels their Thursday night plans to stay home with "ER," and people are already buzzing about Jurassic Park's sequel, "The Lost World."

Online Host: Crichton joins up tonight to talk about his recent best-seller, "Airframe," and the role the media plays in our understanding of the events happening around us. Send your questions to Mr. Crichton using the INTERACT icon at the top of your screen. We are thrilled that he is here --- Welcome Michael Crichton!

HarpoHost: Welcome everyone!

Question: What do you think about the White House's new agenda of reducing air fatalities by 80% in 10 years? Possible?

MCrich9334: Well there are obvious ways to approach air fatalities to get the numbers down. (They are already very low.) Most accidents are caused by human error, particularly pilot error, so improved training of pilots will make a big difference. Better traffic control will help. But fundamentally remember that we are talking about reducing what are already very small numbers. Many more people die on bicycles than on big airplanes in this country every year. And WAY more people choke to death on food.

HarpoHost: Our next question comes to us from HobgoodC ...

Question: Mr. Crichton, are you planning on writing another episode of E.R.? The pilot was excellent.

MCrich9334: Thanks. Actually, I'm not planning to write more for the show. I'd like to, but no time ... (sigh)

Question: Is their going to be a third part to Jurassic Park after The Lost World?

MCrich9334: A third! Jeez, the second one isn't even out! Be patient! (I don't know.)

Question: Airframe seems perfectly timed - given the recent tragedies. What subjects are you currently passionate about?

MCrich9334: Can't tell you that. I never discuss what I am working on until it is done. It's a superstition of mine. Many writers share it.

HarpoHost: Ststtik --- you're up ...

Question: Do you really write 10,000 words a day?

MCrich9334: I did, when I was young and energetic and writing simpler books. Now, I write 1200-2400 words a day.

HarpoHost: W01fsdrea ... a true fan ...

Question: Hello, Mr. Crichton. Are you working on a new book? I've read 'em all! =)

MCrich9334: Yes, I am working on one now.

HarpoHost: JamesBond is up ...

Question: What are some of the reasons you began directing your own scripts? Did you enjoy the directing process? MCrich9334: I started directing to protect my own material. I used to enjoy directing very much. In recent years I've preferred to write only. But I'll probably direct again one of these days.

HarpoHost: C15second has our next question for Michael Crichton ...

Question: What advice would you give to a 14 year old who wants to be a writer, and wants to start right now?

MCrich9334: Start right now! If you want to write, write! Writing is one of the things you can do without a lot of money or expensive equipment, and it is a very peculiar life style, not suited for everybody, so you might as well get started and see if you like it. Whether you like it is more important than whether you're good at it. It's a question of whether you can stick to it.

HarpoHost: DEN is up!

Question: What was your favorite book to write? And what movie, so far, has come closest to portraying your books as written?

MCrich9334: My favorite book to write is TRAVELS, because it is about me! The best translation of a book into a movie, in my opinion was DISCLOSURE. But I like many others as well. I like JURASSIC PARK a lot.

HarpoHost: Our next question for Michael Crichton comes from Jim007bon ...

Question: You have written in many different genres. Do you feel (as Stanley Kubrick does in film) that a great artist should master many different genres in his career?

MCrich9334: Did Stanley Kubrick say that? He seems to have stuck pretty much to movies after an early period as a still photographer. But certainly Kubrick is the master of all the associated crafts of movie-making.

HarpoHost: For all ER fans out there ...

Question: How involved in the casting of ER were you? The show has quite an ensemble!

MCrich9334: Quite involved. The cast turned out very well -- and they're all very nice people, too.

Question: What are your thoughts on Nature vs. Nurture? do you think the media is training kids to be animals with no respect?

MCrich9334: I actually think parents are not doing their jobs, these days. But it isn't the job of the media to teach kids how to behave. (However it is true that the media often makes it harder.)

HarpoHost: VENOMOO7 is up ...

Question: I loved Jurassic Park! What made you bring Ian Malcolm back in the sequel?

MCrich9334: I liked him the best of all the characters so he returned. It's a God-thing writer can do. Conan Doyle did it once, brought Holmes back from the dead.

Question: When is Sphere going to come out on the big screen and who will star?

MCrich9334: Sphere may be out for Christmas 1997, or perhaps early 1998. It stars Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone. It should be pretty terrific.

HarpoHost: Next up for Michael Crichton is CookerKd ...

Question: Do you think that George G. Simpson's footnote was somehow a message to you?! (I love your work by the way!)

MCrich9334: A message to me? No, he wrote it decades before I read it.

HarpoHost:RaptosIc asks Mr. Crichton ...

Question: Is it a surreal experience to have something you have only imagined on paper (or a computer screen) actually appear before you on a motion picture screen?

MCrich9334: Huh ... well, it depends. Sometimes it is weird. Sometimes it is upsetting. I've been to screenings where I had to walk out. I've been to screenings where I was nauseated and thought I was going to throw up. I've been to screenings where I was just VERY disappointed. So ... it depends.

HarpoHost: Icat asks ...

Question: How do you get the research for all your books or do they just come out of your head?

MCrich9334: No, the research is done by me. Actually, I try to keep what comes out of my head to a minimum. I wish I could write non-fiction instead of fiction ... so I try to make up as little as possible.

Question: Do you, like Ian Malcolm, believe that the internet will make the world more ignorant and less creative? If so, why?

MCrich9334: Yes. For the reason that is in the book. I think it is dangerous for everybody to get lock-stepped mentally and having us all wired together threatens to do that. Very bad idea.

Question: Why do you think ER has become such a critical and popular hit? It is a wonderful show!

MCrich9334: I think ER is a little more realistic than TV had been in recent years.. I think people recognize problems and situations they know about the show. And they respond to that. I also think that on the level of pure entertainment, it is extremely will done and consistently of high quality.

Question: What inspired you to write books such as Sphere and Terminal Man? Was it your interests? (I love those books.)

MCrich9334: TERMINAL MAN was based on a real patient I saw in the hospital. I can't say more about it, to protect confidentiality. SPHERE is pure fantasy. The opposite of TERMINAL MAN, in a way.

HarpoHost: Whizzer -- here you go!

Question: Are you thinking of a new TV drama?

MCrich9334: Yes, I met with John Wells, the executive producer of ER, just today about doing a new show. But I can't tell you anything right now.

HarpoHost: Don't know what's up with this one ... but it's the third of it's kind!

Question: Hey Michael, I like your books. Do you play the sitar?

MCrich9334: No, I don't. Sorry about that.

HarpoHost: Hello, Emarq ... here's your question for Michael Crichton ...

Question: How come a lot of the things in Jurassic Park (the book) didn't show up in the movie?

MCrich9334: Either not enough time, or too much money, or not possible to do (i.e. the river sequence.)

Question: What is your least favorite book you have written?

MCrich9334: Actually, it is TERMINAL MAN. I worked on it for 9 drafts and never felt I got it quite right. I don't to this day know what I would do differently, or what I should have done.

Question: Does it bother you when people change things for movie scripts?

MCrich9334: No. Different medium. A script can have only about 10% of a novel in it, so it has to be very compressed and fast. I've made films from my own books and cut them down, so ... to me it is just the process.

HarpoHost: Meow has the next question ...

Question: In your book Disclosure that was recently made into a movie, how were you able to use the company name Digicom as Michael Douglas' employer? Since that is actually the name of an existing technology company.

MCrich9334: We didn't know at the time. Or maybe Digicom came after the movie. I can't remember now. Anyway, they don't seem to mind.

Question: Does your intended audience dramatically effect how you write?

MCrich9334: No. My intended audience is me. I write what I think is interesting to me. Or I try to.

Question: What is your most prized work you feel you've done?

MCrich9334: I try to love all my children equally. Actually, I try not to be attached to how a project turns out. I just do my work, and afterward things happen.

HarpoHost: SpiRit2Ua has our next question int his event ...

Question: Michael, you're my favorite author!!! I was wondering, the thoughts on evolution in The Lost World - are they yours? If so, you do have some very interesting insight.

MCrich9334: Well, they're my ideas, I guess, but they are strongly informed by some current scientific thinking, particularly by Stuart Kaufman of Santa Fe Institute, so it isn't really mine.

Question: Any plans to produce a book similar to the Andromeda Strain, but more up to date with the various possibilities of the ebola virus or some other unknown deadly virus?

MCrich9334: Not to my knowledge. There have been a lot of virus movies lately.

Question: My wife wants to know if you are married?

MCrich9334:Yes, for nine years. I have a daughter. Happily married.

HarpoHost: Next up for Michael Crichton is this question form Iodine98:

Question: Michael, what motivated you to write your excellent, Great Train Robbery? It was one of the most fascinating books I've ever encountered, but the topic seems a bit off for your tastes. How did the piece come about?

MCrich9334: It was based on a real event, which I read about, and decided to make into a full-length novel. There WAS a real train robbery in 1855 and it was generally as described, though I took some liberties and made the criminals more interesting than they really were.

HarpoHost: Swirl has the chance to go right to the source on this one ... Question: What was your Jasper Johns book about? I cannot find it anywhere and its the only book of yours I don't have.

MCrich9334: It's a study of an artist. Abrams has published a revised version in 1994. A bookstore should be able to order it for you, but it's probably expensive.

HarpoHost: Deebrown asks ...

Question: How old were you when you started to write books?

MCrich9334: I wrote my first book at 22, and sold it. Original paperback. I wrote original paperbacks under pseudonyms all through medical school, then quit medicine to become a full-time writer, at 25.

HarpoHost: Malamati has our next question ...

Question: Do you feel that Sphere has had a major impact of modern, sci-fi, perhaps even through the mechanism of folks picking up some ideas and running with them?

MCrich9334: I can't really say. It's always hard to know where ideas come from, who gets what from whom. I WOULD say that a movie I did called WESTWORLD back in 1973 has been extensively remade. By lots of people.

HarpoHost: NaTboY78 is up next ...

Question: In Airframe I noticed that you portrayed the Newsline crew as a kind of cruel and lying group. do you believe the media needs to lay off subjects like the O.J. Trial and move to news more informative?

MCrich9334: Yes. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Question: How was R.H.S? I graduated there too! Do you think it had any impact on your success?

MCrich9334: I went back to Roslyn High School last year and spoke to students at my old high school. It was a thrill. I also say some of my old teachers (they're REALLY old now!) But it was great. I was lucky in my schooling, and in may teachers. I had a great high school and great teachers.

Question: HarpoHost: Smitty -- are you a MAC or PC man?

Question: What do you think about the slow demise of the Macintosh?

MCrich9334: Well, I'm a MAC user, so I'm not prepared to give up. I do some work on Windows machines, and every time I do I am reminded how inferior it is to the MAC OS. (I know, I know ... it's whatever OS you are used to.) But still, if the Mac goes down, it will not be because it was an inferior product. It will be because the big guy ate the little guy (and because the little guy was kind of dumb.)

HarpoHost: Car51 has our next question ...

Question: Mr. Crichton, are there any plans for Airframe to be made into a movie?

MCrich9334: Yes, John McTiernan will direct it after he finishes directing EATERS OF THE DEAD this summer.

Question: I am told I am a talented writer and I love to write. But reading is a different story .. I can't do that often. I find little pleasure. Am I doomed for trouble? Odd huh?

MCrich9334: Well, it is odd. Not necessarilty doomed ... but odd. Caution.

HarpoHost: Does Oxymoron4 have the inside scoop? ...

Question: I heard that your next book is going to have something to do with cosmic wormholes. Is this true?

MCrich9334: I'm certainly interested in wormholes .. but I will say no more. Hey heh.

Question: I saw you on Barbara Walters. How tall are you???

MCrich9334: 6'9" today.

Question: I have read many of your books, and the name Levine appears in many of them. Why?

MCrich9334: Why not? I don't know ... listen, I went to my eye doctor and he said, "So, you put me in your book, as OLD Dr. so and so ... Do you think I am old?" I said, "I put you in my book?" (The meaning of this story is that much writing is unconscious. Levine ... let's see .. I have no idea.) I guess I like the name.

HarpoHost: NesMieste has a follow-up question for Mr. Crichton ...

Question: What do you feel you didn't get right about Terminal Man?

MCrich9334: If I knew, then I'd know what to do about it ... I just feel that there was some opportunity to use a real technology in a fictional way that eluded me.

Question: Michael, do you feel that your books about dinosaurs have encouraged ecologists to genetically man make them like penguins?

MCrich9334: Do people make penguins?

MCrich9334: No ... I don't think my books have encouraged any scientists to do research in any area except, oddly enough, to extraction of paleo-DNA. But I think they are now finding that things are harder than they thought. Don't worry about becoming dino-food in the near future!

HarpoHost: Talon1981 has our next question ...

Question: Were you disappointed with the movie version of Congo? I'm reading your book and it is much better than the movie.

MCrich9334: Yes I was disappointed. Friends of mine made it, but I think it is not one of the better translations of my books.

HarpoHost: Zenyatta2's got a home town question ...

Question: Michael, I was one of the student's that interviewed you last September when you came back to your old high school. I wanted to ask you: What book of yours would you most liek to be added to the Roslyn High School English curriculum?

MCrich9334: Hmmm ... I think that is too much responsibility for me to decide. I like TRAVELS but maybe young people won't.

HarpoHost: This is the time folks ... our last question ...

Question: Michael, I saw you on Oprah and thought you were wonderful. Why don't you do more interviews?

MCrich9334: Because of what I said to Oprah when I came on -- I'm nervous. She was great, but I get very anxious on television and so I prefer to do it as little as possible. You know, I became a writer so I could stay in the background. It's very weird to me that my life should have taken this turn so that I am recognizable so many places and around the world. I came out of dinner in Tokyo one night and these Japanese schoolgirls began to giggle and say, "Oh-Crichton-san." I thought this is really TOO MUCH. But what can I do? It's also fun. I'm not complaining. My life has certainly turned out to be interesting.

MCrich9334: Thank you all for listening to me.

Online Host: Thank you so much for joining us for this discussion with Michael Crichton. We thank him so much for taking the time to be here with us tonight. We hope you all enjoy Airframe. Thanks again to everyone -- have a wonderful night. Goodnight from Harpo Studios.

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