Douglas Adams

Biography: Douglas Adams said his motivation for going into comedy came from watching John Cleese on television. But while the world in its wisdom didn't like Adams performing, he did achieve immortality by writing comedy.

Adams spent three years at St. John's College, Cambridge, attending the Cambridge Footlights Club along the way. Upon leaving Cambridge, Adams proved to be an unconventional writer. According to his associates, Adams spent a lot of time conjuring ideas while having baths. Adams was not accustomed to writing short sketches. Nor was he a confident writer, either. He needed encouragement. Among those who encouraged him was Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. The pair wrote a few things together, most notably a sketch for the final Monty Python episode. In the sketch, Chapman played a doctor who refused to treat a profusely-bleeding patient until he can fill out the hospital forms correctly. Very little of the Chapman-Adams work worked. Adams made the mistake of
Douglas Adams said his motivation for going into comedy came from watching John Cleese on television. But while the world in its wisdom didn't like Adams performing, he did achieve immortality by writing comedy.

Adams spent three years at St. John's College, Cambridge, attending the Cambridge Footlights Club along the way. Upon leaving Cambridge, Adams proved to be an unconventional writer. According to his associates, Adams spent a lot of time conjuring ideas while having baths.

Adams was not accustomed to writing short sketches. Nor was he a confident writer, either. He needed encouragement. Among those who encouraged him was Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. The pair wrote a few things together, most notably a sketch for the final Monty Python episode. In the sketch, Chapman played a doctor who refused to treat a profusely-bleeding patient until he can fill out the hospital forms correctly.

Very little of the Chapman-Adams work worked. Adams made the mistake of working with Graham on a section of Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography, Vol. VI, only to conclude that was the only bad portion of the book. Adams and Chapman also co-wrote Out of the Trees, an intended pilot for a BBC series that never occurred. Chapman was a principal actor in that show, as were Simon Jones, Stephen Moore, and Mark Wing-Davey – all of whom would work for Douglas Adams later.

When he hit a writer's block, Adams took a variety of odd jobs, such as bodyguard at a hotel. He saw the elevators go up and down by themselves and envisioned strange things. But the strangest vision came to him when he lay drunk on a field in Innsbruck, Austria.

That thought became the basis for his BBC Radio miniseries The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Simon Jones played Arthur Dent, a perfectly ordinary Earthman who finds himself joyriding through space after Earth is demolished. By the time BBC Radio completed the first run of the miniseries, Hitchhiker had become a cult classic.

The success of Hitchhiker came from Adams's not relying on the sci-fi standards that Star Trek and Star Wars had built. Adams's influence came from P.G. Wodehouse. The comedy in science-fiction would leave fans looking at the real world with a state of surprise.

Adams turned The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a novel in 1979, and in just one week it hit Number One on the bestsellers list. Within two years, the BBC turned Hitchhiker into a TV miniseries. Simon Jones reprised his role of Arthur Dent. Alongside Jones was Stephen Moore as the voice of Marvin, the Paranoid Android, and Mark Wing-Davey as the two-headed, three-armed Zaphod Beeblebrox. Other popular British actors, such as Martin Benson and Peter Davison, played totally unrecognizable roles.

Adams would write three sequels to the Hitchhiker's Trilogy. After 1985, though, he told everyone he would never write a Hitchhiker book again. He turned his attention to the holistic theory, dating back to ancient Greece, that all things are interconnected. It yielded Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and a sequel book, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

Continuing to look at the world from different points of view, Adams began researching rare and endangered animals up close. He also recognized that computers could allow people to look at the world in a rearranged way.

All of this led, ultimately, to the fifth and last Hitchhiker, called Mostly Harmless. In this novel, Arthur has a daughter, Random Dent, living in a world that has never heard of Earth. Still, Earth was the environment that made her who she is. What follows would astound Arthur Dent even more.

Douglas Adams made a number of rewrites on the original Hitchhiker as a film script. Once he found a workable script, it would take years of hardship and worldly tragedies before The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was released in theatres. The greatest tragedy, of course, was Adams's fatal heart attack in Santa Barbara, California. He was 48.

Touchstone Pictures approved Douglas Adams's honorary credit as one of the film's executive producers.
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Douglas Adams' Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average career score: 63
Highest Metascore: 63 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Lowest Metascore: 63 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
1 movie review
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
63 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Apr 29, 2005 Executive Producer / Book / Screenplay 6.5