Monday, July 14, 2008

Literature Goes Hollywood!

By Danielle Jackson

Have you ever thought about what makes certain books movie material? There are so many different adaptations of literature into film that convey something that was written into something visual—and you have to hand it to directors, producer and actors for their interpretations of various literary figures!

There’s something about Jane Austen that has translated very well into film. Something we all know and love—romance—rings loud and clear both in her books and on the big screen. There are some great versions of Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and of course, Pride & Prejudice (don’t make me choose between the BBC/Colin Firth or the newer on with Keira Knightley!!). I wonder if it’s the fact that all of Austen’s beloved novels have witty banter, unforgettable characters, and an undeniably happy ending!

Even most adventure films have some element of romance driving the core message. The Princess Bride, in my opinion, is a perfect blend between comedy (first and foremost), storytelling and a great love story that even little Fred Savage can appreciate in the end. But even the most sweeping or Fantasies or Science Fictions have love stories—and I don’t think they’re there just to appeal to a female demographic (Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, any superhero and his “damsel in distress”--Superman and Lois Lane, Spiderman and Mary Jane, etc.).

And of course, there are so many women’s fiction and romance books that translate well onto the big screen. As of late, it seems like Nicholas Sparks is on his way to taking over the tearjearker selection at theatres (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember—although I remember the books always being MUCH better). But books like P.S. I Love You, Practical Magic, The Love Letter, and even the sappier of Shakespeare (Ten Things I Hate About You as an update of The Taming of the Shrew, the countless versions of Romeo & Juliet, a recent musical version of Much Ado About Nothing…) have done fairly well in their adaptations from prose to motion picture.

What are some of your favorite books (romance or not) that have become movies? Do you think, if it can be done so, an author should be consulted on films, or should it be seen as an visual interpretation of something a director read? OR—if you could create a cast for your book’s movie, who would play the main characters?


In light of my last blog—the Nancy Pearl Summer Book Selection was announced last week, and our dear Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army was given a lovely review—check out the written article and audio here:


  1. For my book Hot Shot, I would cast Clooney and Maria Bello - think I could get them???

    My favorite book to movie is Pride and Prejudice. PS I Love You was good in both forms, but very different. No William in the book, for instance ;)

  2. I have to say that I truly loved the film version of the Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain playing Fr. Ralph and Rachel Ward as Meggie. Such a fabulous saga that translated so well to the T.V. mini-series.

    I picture Matthew McConaughey playing Ryan in the screen version of Line of Scrimmage. He is into football movies, and I loved him in We Are Marshall. Charlize Theron or Reese Witherspoon might be good to play Susannah.

  3. Pride and Prejudice and The Princess Bride. Loved them!

  4. Mary--of course you could get Clooney and Maria Bello :) I think that's a great pairing!!

    Marie--ACK! I didn't even think of tv movies (other than P&P)--my list could go on forever, especially with pretty much every Lifetime Movie that comes on!

    Terry--Truly classic films from classic books :)

  5. Great post, Danielle!

    I LURVE that Franco Zefferelli version of Romeo and Juliet. His Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is also WONDERFUL! If you can find it in the video store, RENT IT!

    For THE WILD SIGHT, I always pictured Hugh Jackman as the physical model for my hero (Aunty reaches for the drool bucket). The heroine is a bit more difficult, probably physically Jessica Alba is the closest, or maybe a not quite so blonde Kristen Bell.

    One fairly recent movie that I thought was a great adaptation of a book was "In Her Shoes." Even my DH like it!

  6. AC-

    The R&J by Zeferelli is AMAZING! Actually, all of his Shakespeare adaptations (R&J, Taming of the Shrew [which how I like to imagine Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to have actually interacted all the time], Hamlet and even his Jane Eyre) are so well done!

    For Rylie, what about someone like Rosario Dawson...or Megan Fox? A little exotic looking, curvier, and much better actresses than Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell combined (in my opinion).

    I loooooooved In Her Shoes :)

  7. For Dating da Vinci, here's my dream cast.
    Ramona: Kate Winslet
    da Vinci: some hot Italian unknown
    Courtland: Greg Kinnear
    Ramona's best friend: Sandra Oh (from Grey's Anatomy)
    Ramona's egomaniacal sis: Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)

    Not that I've given this any serious thought. LOL

  8. Malena!

    I love your cast!! Kate Winslet is one of my favorite all time actresses. And Leonardo would be a great role for a brand new Italian actor, haha :)
    I think Sandra Oh always plays the best friend role (her part on Grey's, and she was Diane Lane's BFF in Under the Tuscon Sun).

  9. This is one of my favorite questions as I give a movie-star cast to nearly every book I love and nearly every book I write. Selma Blair is playing Carol Frank in the movie version of my book, though she and her agent don't know it yet. One of my recent favorite books-to-film is The Count of Monte Cristo which stars James Caviesal. Sweeping adventure and a heartfelt romance. I loved it.

  10. For my answer to your question, see Sunday's blog on Wickedly Romantic.

  11. You know, you mentioned Practical Magic...that's one of the only times I can remember loving the movie more than the book! They really had very little in common. The movie was lighter and had more romance and magic in it, so it's no shock I preferred it. Sandra Bullock in that movie is my model for the heroine I'm writing right now, actually. I paired her up with Val Kilmer in his Top Gun incarnation. Yeah, I'm weird, I know:-)

    I love hearing everyone's casting choices! I think one of my favorite book-to-movie translations was, in fact, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I hope no one ever tries to redo it...Peter Jackson's interpretation was, I think, pitch-perfect.