Charles Kemper Eastman was an American screenwriter, 'script doctor', actor and director, who wrote an original screenplay for the movie Planet of the Apes in 1966.
Eastman was one of four children born in Los Angeles, California, where his father worked at Warner Bros. as a grip, and his mother was a longtime secretary for Bing Crosby. As a young teenager, he acted in theater. While attending Los Angeles City College, he worked as a film extra and had a stint as stand-in for Jerry Lewis. He began his career working in Bing Crosby's office and appeared as an extra in many Crosby films. He later worked in the script department of CBS in the 1950s, and had several of his plays produced by Los Angeles theater groups, including La Peregrina, Victorey, The Root of the Iceplant and his one-act play The Hamster of Happiness, which was later adapted as a screenplay for the NBC anthology series Experiment in Television (1968). Eastman's 1950s screenplay Honeybear, I Think I Love You - about a disturbed young man's obsession with a girl - has been cited as stunning and very influential among screenwriters at the time in terms of language and observations of contemporary life, though it never made it to the big screen despite many efforts, due partly to Eastman being very particular about how it was going to be made. The eccentric writer reportedly turned down offers by major studios and stars on his original screenplays during the 1960s, wanting direct them himself. His sister Carole Eastman (1934–2004) was an actress who also became a screenwriter, often under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce. She wrote the Jack Nicholson vehicles The Shooting (1968, in which Charles had a minor role), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Fortune (1975) and Man Trouble (1992).
Eastman launched a career as an uncredited script doctor in the mid-1960s on films such as The Americanization of Emily (1964), Otto Preminger's Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965), The Loved One (1965), The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and This Property Is Condemned (1966). In late 1966, he was asked by APJAC Productions to revisit the draft scripts prepared by respected writer Rod Serling between 1963 and 1965 for the proposed Planet of the Apes movie. Serling had stopped working on the stalled project, but renewed interest from 20th Century Fox in September 1966 meant that a new scriptwriter was required to develop the main characters and build up the suspense of Serling's draft. Eastman submitted the first twenty-seven pages of a treatment that December, describing the mysterious events surrounding the revival of a large crew from their hibernation aboard a colonisation spaceship. Eastman was then dismissed, as his screenplay was entirely different to Serling's, and he had thus gone beyond his remit. By January 1967, Michael Wilson was at work on a new screenplay which retained most of Serling's scenes but added completely new dialogue, a concept more in keeping with the wishes of the production company.
Eastman's screenplay Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970), directed by Sidney J. Furie, was produced at Paramount Pictures and shared Esquire magazine's Best Screenplay of the Year award. The movie's motorcycle racing star, Robert Redford, said of the film, "That was the best screenplay of any film I've ever done, in my opinion. It was without a doubt the most interesting, the funniest, the saddest, the most real and original." Eastman earned his only directing credit with his screenplay about a promising small-town boxer, The All American Boy (1973, starring Jon Voight) for Warner Bros. In 1981 a film based on his play The Hamster of Happiness, directed by Hal Ashby, was released under the title Second-Hand Hearts. Other original screenplays by Eastman include April 17, 1961, The Hundredth Monkey, Cowboy Christmas and Kazhiamira and the Night Guys. Other produced plays he wrote include The Un-American Cowboy, Busy Bee Good Food All Night Delicious and Borders. He also wrote short stories, including Yellow Flags, which was published in 'The Atlantic Monthly' and later anthologized in the 1993 'O. Henry Prize Stories' collection. His photo collection comprising over 50 years of screenplay research and celebrity photos is available through Getty Images. He continued to write every day, and even after undergoing a quadruple heart bypass, he wrote three screenplays that so far are unproduced. Charles Eastman died from complications of heart disease in Culver City, California, leaving no immediate surviving family members.
- Not to be confused with Sioux-American writer and reformer Charles Alexander Eastman (1858 - 1939).
- Charles K. Eastman article at Wikipedia
- Charles Eastman, 1929-2009: Playwright and screenwriter, by Dennis McLellan - Chicago Tribune (July 12, 2009)
- Charles Eastman dies at 79; playwright and screenwriter, by Dennis McLellan - Los Angeles Times (July 10, 2009)
- Charles Eastman biography page at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB)
- Charles Eastman's partial screenplay for Planet of the Apes