Episode 54: Books Made Into Movies Pt 1

On August 3rd Kasie and Rex started a new month of episodes on Books that were made into Movies and the tragedies thereof. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Books They Made Into Movies – Part 1


  • So Your Book is a Movie now? How cool is that?
  • Books that were ruined by movies
  • TV shows and series made from books
man holding clapper board
Photo by Martin Lopez on Pexels.com

Segment 1

The first episode in what I feel certain will be an entire month dedicated to the movie adaptations of books. It’s so easy to talk about our favorites and the ones that got it wrong and all that so rather than just proceed by chewing on this topic, let’s actually organize the work here.

This week we’re going to talk about what it means in literary circles to be selected for movie production. We’ll borrow some insights from some favorites like Pat Conroy, Steven King, and others on the adaptation process. And also visit that Oscar for best screen adaptation and what that really means.

Then we’ll work through some of those ruined books where the film was so off the mark that you really should have just stuck with reading it.

Next week, we’ll look at movies that got it right, authors that built their film fame into a new skill and revenue stream, and the ones who shunned Hollywood all together.

So let’s talk adaptation.

One of the internet’s best Writing Resources is Jane Friedman and she has this to sayon making films from books:

  1. Writing “based on” seems to carry a lot of weight in Hollywood these days; source material is all the rage.
  2. The “right” fit for film is as subjective as the right fit for a publisher, so be aware.
  3. Writing the script from the book is “development hell” or a purgatory in which many screenwriters are cycled through while your book is transformed. Friedman suggests you stay out of it.

There are some horror stories like this one about an agented author sold options to her books three times before a studio finally mounted a production of the thing. She said it took years and that when the production finally occurred, she had very little input of control.

The Guardian wrote this article about whether books are better than movies with some surprising results. The truth is that books leave a certain amount to the reader’s experience and imagination. When a film is made, the adds that you brought to the book are not there. Unless you directed the film, of course.

What does the reader bring to the book that a director takes from us when he/she does the movie?

  • What the characters look like — real people play the characters in our heads
  • What the setting looks like — real places (or CGI) fills in the details of space and color

Segment 2

Real books ruined by their movie counterparts:

This list of 25 Book Adaptations that were so bad they inspired Rage is worth reading. Here’s a few I think we’ve both probably read and seen:

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife — dark side of time travel gets an upbeat romantic treatment
  • Paper Towns — deep teen angst gets replaced by silly teen drama
  • The Shining — crazy Jack doesn’t seem to care about anyone, not his wife, not his kids, that’s not true to the book

Then these from this list and this list:

  • The Great Gatsby — Leo DiCaprio version
  • Alice in Wonderland — Johnny Depp / Tim Burton version
  • The Handmaid’s Tale — the film with Fay Dunaway and Robert Duvall
  • All the King’s Men — the book focused on the journalist and narrator while the film focused on the politician, Stark
  • Mary Poppins — they made a whole film (starring Tom Hanks) about how much that author did not want Disney to make her book a film
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s — if you’ve only seen the film, you might be surprised to learn it was a Truman Capote book
  • The Hobbit — made every list.
  • Fever Pitch — Nick Hornby’s book about being obsessed with a soccer team of all things

A lot of these were teen movies and fantasy novels. Why are those prone to disastrous interpretations?

TV Shows from books:

  • True Blood
  • The Vampire Diaries
  • Game of Thrones
  • Man in the High Castle
  • Outlander
  • The Magicians
  • The Handmaid’s Tale

Some authors were fine with the change — John Irving apparently really liked Simon Birch which was “based” on his book A Prayer for Owen Meany.

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