From shelves to screens

A number of days ago I read an intriguing article in the San Diego Union Tribune about the recent trend of literary reads making the transition to the big screen. Included in the article was the author’s list of books-turned-into-movies that didn’t disappoint, ones that most certainly did disappoint and a list of – insert gasp here – movies deemed better than the books that birthed them.

The list intrigued me and set me to thinking of making lists of my own. What would I list as great books-turned-movies, disappointing books-turned movies and what book would I like to see made into a movie and who would star in it? So I asked myself these questions as well as a bunch of author friends. Here are the results. Who knows? Maybe this list will ease the mental weight of unfinished Christmas shopping for you. Books and DVDs make great gifts. Off we go. . .

Favorite movie based on a novel:
Edgewise: Return of the King: I never visualized Tolkien as wonderful as this.
James Scott Bell: The Hustler: Robert Rossen took a minor novel and turned it into one of the great American films. Ditto The Godfather from Coppola (though the Puzo novel was very popular).
Deborah Raney: Cold Sassy Tree starring Faye Dunaway, Richard Widmark and Neil Patrick Harris; remained quite true to the book as I remember.
Kristen Billerbeck: Bridget Jones’s Diary, BBC Version of Pride and Prejudice.
Colleen Coble: Gone With The Wind. It felt like I lived the book.
Thom Lemmons: Though it’s technically a mini-series, I’d have to say Lonesome Dove. Of course, since McMurtry had tons of creative control over the screenplay, that makes sense.
Camy Tang: Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version (although it’s more of a miniseries than a movie). It was just so well done! It was close enough to the book to be enjoyable without any nagging annoyances, and the acting from some of the cast (like David Bamber and Alison
Steadman) was stellar.

What movie based on a novel disappointed you the most?
Edgewise: I seem to do a memory dump every 12 months This may not be the most disappointing to me for all time, but defintely in recent history: Memoirs of a Geisha. It was an okay movie, but it could’ve been so much better.
James Scott Bell: Robert Altman’s version of The Long Goodbye. What he did to Chandler is a crime.
Deborah Raney: I’m almost always disappointed in movies that were based on novels. In my opinion, it’s a rare exception if the film is better than the book.
Kristen Billerbeck: The Count of Monte Cristo.
Colleen Coble: The Stand. It deserved better. It’s the best King book of all time.
Thom Lemmons: The first Lord of the Rings animated feature, back in the 70s. The biggest problem was with trying to bring Tolkien’s vision to the screen before the advent of CGI.
Camy Tang: I have to preface this with the fact I’m not a very critical movie watcher, I like most things. There were very few movies from books that I thought were absolutely horrible. The only one that stands out is the 1972 BBC version of Emma, which annoyed me in the first 20 minutes because the acting was horrible, the script was appalling, and the screen direction was tiring.

What movie did you find to be better than the book that spawned it?
Edgewise: The Princess Bride. (As you wish . . . )
James Scott Bell: Shane. Yes, it’s true.
Jeff Gehrke: The Postman was far superior to the book upon which it was based.
Deborah Raney: Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks. I enjoyed the book, but I thought the movie had a much more heroic, redemptive ending (though as a rule, I don’t like it when a movie ends differently than the book.)
Kristen Billerbeck: Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Colleen Coble: Tough one because I ALWAYS think the book is better than the movie. With one exception. I was so mad at the book Hannibal that I literally threw it across the room. Clarice would NEVER become a cannibal with Hannibal. But when the movie came out, that was fixed properly. LOL
Thom Lemmons: The first Godfather movie: the visuals, the atmosphere. . . I just thought it went beyond what Puzo was able to convey in the novel. Of course, when you’ve got people like Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, and Al Pacino saying your words . . .
Camy Tang: As I said, I’m not a very critical movie goer, but I do remember thinking that the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility had some of the most fabulous additions to the script and scene direction. I was very pleased with the things she added.

If you could see one book turned into a movie, which would it be & who would star?
Edgewise: Any of my Rachael Flynn books. Natalie Portman as Rachael, Keanu Reeves as Trace, Denzel Washington as Will and Brian Regan as Fig (ha!)
James Scott Bell: Presumed Guilty, starring Patricia Heaton.
Deborah Raney: Well, one of mine, of course. 🙂 But barring that, I’d love to see Jan Karon’s Mitford novels as a movie, and of course the wonderful Ed Harris would be Father Tim, and Jan Karon herself would play Cynthia. Or maybe Glenn Close.
Kristen Billerbeck: A Thousand Splendid Suns and it would star Maia Morgenstern, who played the Virgin Mary in “Passion of the Christ.” One of mine? She’s Out of Control and it would star Drew Barrymore as Ashley Stockingdale and Hugh Jackman as Dr. Kevin.
M.L. Tyndall: I’d love to see my first novel, The Redemption, made into a great swashbuckling movie along the lines of the Pirates of the Caribbean but to the glory of God. And of course, I would choose James Caviezel to star as my pirate Captain, Merrick! It’s nice to dream. . .
Colleen Coble: My book, Abomination, would make a fabulous movie. It’s got so many interesting things in it, like a serial killer who leaves victims at geocaching sites, ballet, deadly swans, a missing wife who is found but has no memory. I’d have it star Nicolas Cage as Nick (in the book Nick is a bit younger but no big deal) and I’d have Nicole Kidman play Eve.
Thom Lemmons: If I can nominate one of my own works, it would be King’s Ransom (with Jan Beazley). This WWII story based on actual events is crying out for a Schindler-esque treatment. Tsar Boris would be played by John Malkovich, Dobri Dimitrov would be played by Johnny Depp ( or maybe Adrien Brody), and Juliette Binoche would play Daria Richetti. If I had to pick a more well-known novel, I’d like to see a cinematic treatment of Mark Helprin’s A Soldier in the Great War. It’s probably the least dependent on magical realism of any of his well-known books, and I loved the characters.
Bill Kritlow: My first book, Driving Lessons, would make a good movie. Originially I titled it “Chickenlips and Speedpump” but TN didn’t like that and changed it. I wrote it with a movie in mind.
Camy Tang: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I’d cast Gerard Butler as F’lar and Angelina Jolie as Lessa, simply because I like the two of them as actors.

There you have it, Edglings. Care to put in your own two cents? The floor is yours. . .

Author: Susan

This post has 7 Comments

  1. Nick on December 10, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    I agree about the Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Also, the Anne of Green Gables miniseries was better than the books, according to one of my daughters.

    “Enchanted April” is better than the 1930’s book that spawned it.

    “The Thin Man.” Also from 1939, GWTW and “The Wizard of Oz.” All are better than their books.

  2. mindakay09 on December 10, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Love your blog! You are one of my absolute FAVORITE authors – I’m reading Days & Hours right now and loving it. All of your other books are amazing as well!
    Oh, plus Brian Regan as Fig would be INCREDIBLE. 🙂 I would pay a LOT of money to see that!! 🙂

  3. Nicole on December 10, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    I would love to see Redeeming Love finally make it to the screen–it’s been languishing in Hollywood neverlands for years. It would star Johnny Depp as Michael Hosea and Keri Russell as Sarah (aka Angel, etc.). Too awesome.

    (Also I could see my own second novel The Famous One as a film . . .)

  4. Anna on December 10, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    My favorite movie based on a novel would have to be any of these three: Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, or Pride and Prejudice (either version); just because all three of those stories are so brought to life with great characterization in the movies.

    Most disappointing movie based on a novel: I think that would be the later movies in the Love Comes Softly series. They aren’t even similar to the plots of the books anymore.

    What book I would like to see made into a movie: My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay. That would be awesome.

  5. Heather on December 10, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Amen to the Pride and Prejudice (BBC version, of course). On the flip side, the new version was one of those “killed the story” categories.
    Speaking of, Kristen, you couldn’t be more right with Monte Cristo–slaughtered one of my favorite books.
    Susan, I don’t know why anyone would want Reeves in a movie, not if you want the movie to be decent. Sorry. Can’t stand the guy.
    On the other hand, Thom, Depp, Malkovich, and Binoche make an excellent cast!
    My own pick–I’d love to see Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight become a movie.

  6. Susan Meissner on December 11, 2007 at 3:09 am

    Thanks, all, for your comments.
    Heather, I had to laugh over your comment about Keanu! That’s exactly how I would react if someone suggested Ben Affleck. I shall wrack my brain to come up with a more suitable Tracey Flynn . . . Any suggestions out there?

  7. Camy Tang on December 11, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for collecting answers and posting this, Susan! This was soooo fun!

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