Novels on the Big Screen - or not

There’s a great article in the Independent today by Danuta Keane about “Why so many novels never make it to the big screen”.

“Books provide filmmakers with ready-made plots on which to base screenplays
(useful when plagiarism claims start to fly), and a proven audience. But unless
they are global mega-sellers like Dan Brown, J K Rowling or Michael Crichton,
the actual authors are lower on the food chain than the screenwriter, and if you
think they are respected, watch Sunset Boulevard or The Player.”

The Player is one of my favourite movies - showing how a sensitive literary story is turned into a blockbuster starring Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis in an explosively ridiculous ending.

I had my own brush with Hollywood with my first novel The Flame Tree. It was truly a brief encounter but telling none the less. It went something like this:

Hollywood production company: Love the story.  Where is Malaysia? Can we set it in Vietnam?

Me: Uh, no.

The End.

Danuta’s article also has a list of the 5 best film adaptations of books and also the 5 worst. I’d add to the best adaptations “Gone With The Wind”, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “Maurice”. And amongst the worst - Polanski’s “Tess of the D’Urbevilles”.

What are your favourite or least favourite film adaptations of books? Which adaptations do you think are the best or the worst? Add a comment or email me and let’s see if we get a consensus or lots of different views!

3 Responses to “Novels on the Big Screen - or not”

  1. Say Lee Says:

    Why would the film production company want to set it in Vietnam, and losing the multi-cultural milieu in the process? Or maybe Vietnam is more well-known in the western world (read US) and is able to evoke a nostalgic response from would-be audience? In other words, box office potential governs, rather than staying true to the novel, a work of fiction notwithstanding?

    I’m more of a thriller aficionado and have enjoyed both the books and their movie adaptations by such authors as Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, John Grisham and even Alistair Mclain earlier on.

    For others, I’ve enjoyed the movies but have never read the original works such as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Harry Porter series.

    My personal experiences are that the impacts of books tend to stay longer in memory as they usually set off a chain of thought experiments that the mind actively participates. On the other hand, the “impacts” from a movie are usually sensory-based, the proverbial sight and sound, but rarely elicit any thought response as soon as the end credits start to roll.

    Another correlation that can be examined is between real events and movie adaptations of which they are so many to name. But as in book adaptations, the Hollywood is not averse to changing some of the details to suit current sentiments or maximize box office draw appeal, sensationalism in a word.

    I just watched one, but it’s on TV, Crossroads by Hallmark starring Dean Cain of the TV series, Louis and Clark fame. It chronicles a story of forgiveness displayed by Bruce Murakami, played by Dean Cain, toward a young reckless driver who killed Bruce’s wife and kids in a street drag race. I was able to empathize with Bruce’s realization that one needs to forgive as a closure in a tragedy in order to move on. And contrary to my statement above, I was moved to some thinking after the TV movie. So, perhaps an exception to the (my) rule is dramas. Therefore my take of the thriller genre still stands.

  2. yeeton Says:

    “What are your favourite or least favourite film adaptations of books? Which adaptations do you think are the best or the worst? Add a comment or email me….”- YM

    FAVOURITES include Margaret Mitchell’s GWTW, an all-time movie classic, theme music hauntingly beautiful for want of a better description (Vivien Leigh’s acting was superb IMO), [Love Is] A Many Splendoured Thing based on true life story of Han Suyin aka Elizabeth Comber, London-trained Sino-Flemish doctor and medical practitioner (latterly in Johor, Malaysia), Miss Sadie Thompson, film adaptation of The Rain by Somerset Maugham, The Trials (”Did you kiss him?”) of Oscar Wilde from eponymous book edited by Montgomery Hyde-White starring Peter Finch as Oscar Wilde and James Mason as prosecuting counsel, To Kill a Mocking Bird starring Gregory Peck as defence attorney, from eponymous book by James Baldwin(?) set in the American Deep South. Last but not least, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar starring Marlon Brando and a host of stars.

    Least liked probably Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita starring James Mason. Dealt with love or unhealthy relationship between under-age girl and middle-aged man.

  3. yeeton Says:

    APROPOS, Say Lee, Vietnam can sell - that’s what matters - that perhaps Malaysia cannot. All the John Wayne and ‘Rambo’ Stallone stuff that countless millions worldwide have seen, were set in Vietnam. Malaysia-set movies? Not many and low budget that you have to go back a very long time. ‘Entrapment’ with Connery guy set in KL?

    Am more receptive to visual stuff myself in accordance with what someone may have alluded to, a picture being worth more than a thousand words.
    Long ago read Ugly American, saw eponymous film /
    movie, know which one I remember better, of what little that I do remember!

    Absolutely spot on what you say, Hollywood would do anything to maximise box office appeal, the bottom line
    being the returns or the margins on an investment. The
    Pearl Harbour movie is a grossly jazzed-up version or otherwise inaccurate portrayal of events, according to the veterans who personally remember what actually happened that awfully infamous day of December 7th, 1941.

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