In For Writers, Learning from Legends

Most writers daydream about two things: the day their book appears on a best seller list and the day it gets made into a movie. I’m quite certain I’m not alone in admitting that I mentally cast all the characters in my novel a long time ago. And, if I’m being completely honest, I’ve also thought about costuming, set design, camera angles, and the award-winning score.

I’m not a fool. I know it’s extremely rare to have your book made into a movie…but it’s fun to dream. Although, there’s one rather enormous detail that I choose to blissfully ignore: the fact that authors aren’t usually involved or consulted when their work gets made into a movie.

Granted, this isn’t always the case – Stephanie Meyer is on the set of every movie in the Twilight Saga, but that’s the exception not the rule. Consequently, authors are sometimes less than thrilled with the end result because any number of things can go wrong: the wrong actors are cast, key scenes are cut, or the author’s original intentions are lost in translation, like these 7 worst film adaptations. One of the most famous examples of an author hating a film adaptation is Stephen King of The Shining.

Unfortunately, it seems like there are more disappointments than successes when it comes to adapting written work for the big screen. But, while I can think of many more book-to-movie adaptations that I didn’t like, there have been a few that I really loved.

For example, I thought Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts was a great representation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s soul-searching journey through Italy, India, Indonesia. I felt Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen was exquisitely translated to the big screen. And, of course, there’s my long-time favorite: Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook which I’ve watched at least a dozen times.

I’ve also heard that the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird (my favorite classic) was excellent, but I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment.

I’ve racked my brain trying to think of other movies that I loved,  but those three are all I can come up with. So I ask you…which film adaptations do you love?

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Showing 4 comments
  • seakiev
    Reply

    To Kill a Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck is a cinematic classic………watch it this weekend, you’ll be amazed at how good it is.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention THE HELP which is coming to theaters soon…I wonder how it will translate from the book?

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Movies such as Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King, Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, Travers’ Mary Poppins, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, Tolkien’s Lord of the RIngs and Rowling’s Harry Potter all stay on track for the main plot when made into screenplays; as do most screenplays made from the works of Agatha Christie, Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

    On the other hand, I refused as a child to go to the Dr. Doolittle movie, being a great fan of the books. I finally saw it as a grown-up and realized the early instinct was correct. Ditto for all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books…

  • frankchance
    Reply

    Movies such as Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King, Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, Tolkien’s Lord of the RIngs and Rowling’s Harry Potter all stay on track for the main plot when made into screenplays; as do most works by Agatha Christie, Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

    On the other hand, I refused as a child to go to the Dr. Doolittle movie, being a great fan of the books. I saw it as a grown-up and realized the early instinct was correct. Ditto for all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books…

  • P.I. Barrington
    Reply

    It’s funny but I’ve always thought that if my book was ever optioned seriously one clause in the contract would be that I got to cast the film(s). One movie that really made me take notice of casting was King’s Carrie directed by Brian de Palma. From Piper Laurie to Amy Irving the casting was damn near perfect excepting Sissy Spacek. Carrie was pudgy and clumsy not rail thin like Sissy and I don’t recall her having a southern accent. Of course those bloody bulging eyeballs made up for it, lol! But I count it as King’s sheer talent and ability to make everyone from the director to the audience see the same thing! But that’s just me.

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