When producers came knocking in the late '70s to make films of Richard Price's first two novels, The Wanderers and Bloodbrothers, he was asked to write the adaptations himself. He balked. ''The two things to watch out for after your first big success,'' he said then, ''are drugs and screenplays.''
Since then, Price has succumbed to both. He was addicted to cocaine for three years. He also began a 10-year tango with Hollywood, writing scripts for (and, ''as a goof,'' often making cameos in) seven features, including The Color of Money, Sea of Love, and Kiss of Death. ''It's not like I've struck a smooth balance,'' he says. ''It's not like Monday's screenplay day, Tuesday's novel day. I get away for a few years to do a book, then I fall into screenplays 'cause I gotta make money. I try to separate the two jobs.''
That resolution may elude Price this year. He'll be writing one script for Jonathan Demme and one for Ron Howard's thriller Ransom, as well as a novel to follow 1992's Clockers, due this fall as a ''Spike Lee joint'' rolled indirectly from Price's adaptation.
Being revised, reworked, and occasionally ignored is part of the filmmaking process, admits Price. He shrugs off these indignities but not the studio-imposed finale of Kiss of Death. ''My ending was, Nick Cage gets killed by his own [mob] people,'' Price rat-a-tats. ''The studio said, it's anticlimactic. We wanna see Caruso take his destiny in his own hands.'' But not, alas, Richard Price. Is it novel day yet?