In 1967 Heller wrote a two-act play entitled We Bombed in New Haven that shares the antiwar stance of Catch-22 and, like the novel, reflects the author’s own military experiences. Surrealistic in technique with a sometimes heavy-handed use of burlesque elements, the play lacks a tight structure. It was first produced at Yale University and later ran for eighty-six performances on Broadway. That same year Heller published “Catch-22 Revisited,” a nonfiction article tracing his return to Corsica, where he served during World War II. A 1969 short story entitled “Love, Dad” examines the childhood and family background of the character Nately. Five years later, in 1974, Heller fleshed out yet another character from Catch-22 in “Clevinger’s Trial,” a short dramatic piece. In 1971 he produced a pared down, three-act stage version of Catch-22. Directed by Larry Arrick and performed by the John Drew Repertory Company in East Hampton, New York, the play met with moderate success.
Heller received inquiries about movie rights soon after the novel’s publication. Columbia Pictures, the studio that originally purchased the film rights, eventually dropped the project because of Pentagon concerns about antiwar films, the difficulties of translating a lengthy novel into a workable script, and the problem of finding a suitable director. Paramount surmounted these obstacles in 1970, producing a movie directed by Mike Nichols and starring Alan Arkin as Yossarian, Jon Voight as Milo Minderbinder, Anthony Perkins as Chaplain Tappman, Orson Welles as General Dreedle, Richard Benjamin as Major Danby, Jack Gilford as Doc Daneeka, Bob Newhart as Major Major, Paula Prentiss as Nurse Duckett, and Art Garfunkel as Nately. Buck Henry wrote the screenplay, as Heller did not wish to write a movie script himself. Critical reviews were mixed, with the inevitable unfavorable comparisons to the book. But Arkin’s performance and Nichols’s direction received almost universal acclaim, and the public’s reaction was generally positive. The film renewed interest in the novel, enabling Catch-22 to make the best seller list for the first time, nine years after its original publication.