Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why So Many Novels Never Get Filmed

I have many that have never even been optioned. For a bonus, at the end of the article there's a list of the five best and five worst screen adaptations. Thanks to Gerard Saylor for the link.

Why so many novels never make it to the big screen - Independent Online Edition > Features: "The cinemas are full of turkeys yet that brilliant novel you read three years ago has never been made into a film. Danuta Kean descends into development hell and finds out why so many authors get trapped there."


Anonymous said...


1. The Third Man:

Graham Greene adapted his own novel, and director Carol Reed turned it into cinematic gold with more than a little help from a sublime Orson Welles.

2. Adaptation:

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman turned Susan Orlean's 'unfilmable' book The Orchid Thief into a jaw dropping satire about writer's block.

3. Lawrence of Arabia:

T E Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' was transformed into an unbeatable epic by screenwriter Robert Bolt and director David Lean.

4. The Go-Between:

Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey wax lyrical with L P Hartley's psychological romance.

5. The English Patient:

Anthony Minghella turned Michael Ondaatje's Booker winner upside down to form a romantic epic that improved on the original.


1. The Bonfire of the Vanities:

Tom Wolfe's sprawling satire on 1980s America became an unwatchable dogs' dinner in Brian De Palma's hands.

2. Captain Corelli's Mandolin:

Whoever thought the unsubtle Nicolas Cage would be a good choice for lead role needs to up their medication.

3. War of the Worlds:

Tom Cruise brings new meaning to the phrase 'disaster movie'.

4. The Black Dahlia:

Brian De Palma proves once more that great books can make terrible films... or is it just him?

5. Bram Stoker's Dracula:

So bad it's good. Memorable for Gary Oldman's bad hair day and Keanu Reeves' hilarious English accent. laughing. As revenge goes, it beats the naughty step."

In re De Palma...well, It's mostly Him.

Meanwhile, the third MALTESE FALCON is a Much better film than THE ENGLISH PATIENT. THE GO-BETWEEN is an interesting choice...someday soon I'll have to read McGivern's ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, to help me get a sense of how faithful the excellent film is. Peckinpah's THE GETAWAY is certainly one of the worst adaptations ever, but the remakes of THE HAUNTING and PSYCHO retain their special places in my bowels.

Unknown said...

I confess that I have never seen The English Patient. And most likely never will.

Cap'n Bob said...

How about HONDO? Sorry, Todd, but I hated THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Even the batt nekked ladies couldn't save this yawner for me.

Cap'n Bob said...

Oops! That's "butt nekked ladies"

Unknown said...

I liked "batt naked," myself.

As for Hondo, there's some question about which came first, the screenplay or the novel.

Anonymous said...

Bob, you mistake my quotation for my choices. THE INDEPENDENT writer cited THE ENGLISH PATIENT, I prefer THE MALTESE FALCON (3rd try). HONDO would perhaps be a case rather like 2001...novel and film more or less simultaneous products of the process.

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was no great shakes as a book, but that film...which leads us inexorably to DR. DOLITTLE...

Juri said...

I said this earlier somewhere else, but THE THIRD MAN is no adaptation. Greene wrote the screenplay and later he wrote the novelization of his own screenplay.

The best adaptations are those we don't think are adaptations. What about THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS?

Anonymous said...

Well, just because not enough people remember the sources for the likes of ODD MAN OUT (1947), doesn't make the films better (as good as that one is). Or even LASSIE COME HOME...or, of course, PSYCHO. Meanwhile, the 1946 GREAT EXPECTATIONS is in no way lessened by Everyone knowing its source...