Remembering George Clayton Johnson

January 5th, 2016
George Clayton Johnson

We're sad to learn that writer George Clayton Johnson passed away on December 25, 2015 at age 86. Johnson was a fiction, television, and movie writer. He was the original co-screenwriter of the 1960 film Ocean's 11 and contributed to eight episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959-64), including the classics "Nothing in the Dark," "A Game of Pool," and "Kick the Can." Johnson was also a writer on the Star Trek teleplay that would become the premiere episode, "The Man Trap." He wrote episodes of Route 66, The Law and Mr. Jones, and Kung Fu, and co-authored the classic science fiction novel "Logan's Run" with William F. Nolan.

Below are some selections from his 2003 Archive interview:

On becoming a writer and penning Ocean's 11:

I really thought that I might be able to learn how to be a writer… I felt that was where the chewy center was. If I could learn to do that, how wonderful. I couldn’t do it yet, but I could fake it. I could write you out a story and if anybody would look at it, they'd probably laugh. But I could get it from the beginning, middle, and the end. Just like I could fake what I see in the movies or in TV. And I could do something, believe me. So I started trying to do that on the kitchen table at first with a story called Ocean’s 11. I started plotting it out and it was first to be a novel. I got to forty thousand words before it could start conceivably as a screen play.  

On working with Gene Roddenberry on Star Trek:

He re-wrote everything. He was a compulsive re-writer. He must have been a good typist. Every script that he got, he sat late in his office, sometimes he’d have a visitor or two, you could see them through the dim light because the window shades weren’t pulled in these big office buildings and sometimes there would be people in these rooms and you would see things through the windows, late at night if you were leaving the studio. But there he would be, mostly alone, typing and retyping and he changed an awful lot of things I had. He made things clumsy that weren’t clumsy before.

On how he'd like to be remembered:

I want to be remembered as a person who early on in his life took control of his life and set goals. When people gave me a lined paper, I wrote the other way. When people expect some certain behavior from me, I will frustrate their expectations.

Watch George Clayton Johnson's full Archive interview and read his obituary in Variety.

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