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RIC prof revels in novel’s success

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thomas Cobb could never have imagined that the story he wrote when he was a student at University of Houston would one day be made into an Academy Award-nominated movie.

Cobb, an English professor at Rhode Island College, wrote “Crazy Heart” as a doctoral dissertation, and got the inspiration for the story’s protagonist from a line that repeated over and over in his head. “Bad’s got the sweats again,” Cobb claims, served as the inspiration for the character known as Bad Blake, played by Jeff Bridges in the recent movie adaptation of the book.

Cobb, who worked as a music critic while working towards his doctorate, said he heard a song about a washed-up country singer on an album he was supposed to review, and Bad Blake’s character developed from there.

The book that resulted from his dissertation was published in 1987, and while it received critical acclaim, it did not sell many copies.

“It got great reviews but it just didn’t sell,” Cobb said. “It only sold around 11,000 copies.”

The 2009 movie, directed by Scott Cooper, has now made its way to theaters nationwide and is the recipient of numerous awards, including Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes for Bridges’ portrayal of Bad Blake.

“I’m really happy with Jeff and Maggie’s performances,” Cobb said, referring to Bridges’ portrayal of Bad Blake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of journalist Jean Craddock.

“Jeff really captures Bad Blake’s character and Maggie’s performance was very effective.”
When pressed about the movie’s chances at the Oscars, Cobb placed great faith in Bridges’ likelihood of winning Best Actor, as well as T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham’s prospects of winning Best Original Song for “The Weary Kind,” which is featured in the movie.

“Jeff has a really good chance and I also think the song has a really good chance,” Cobb said. “Maggie is up against Mo’Nique who has won Best Supporting Actress twice already, so she has a tough road ahead of her.”

Despite all the recent success, it wasn’t always clear to Cobb whether or not his book would become a movie.

“There was always the hope that someone would get it made, but I wasn’t holding my breath,” said Cobb. “It was a real surprise when Scott was actually able to do it, because nobody had come that close before.”

Cobb said a movie adaptation had been considered on and off ever since the book was released in 1987, but Cooper was the first person to get the film green-lighted by a studio.

The professor’s life has certainly changed now that the movie has been released and is doing well all across the country.

“I’m doing lots of press and flying back and forth between Providence and L.A.,” Cobb said. “I’ve walked the red carpet a couple of times.”

Cobb said the royalties from the movie have also allowed him to remodel his home, and that the original book is now back in print for readers to purchase.

“I’m happy that it’s back in print after all these years,” said Cobb, who is also the author of the 2008 novel “Shavetail.”

Even with his publicity and teaching duties, Cobb continues to write. He said he is working on a new book that he hopes to complete this spring if all goes as planned.

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