When it comes to adaptations of their work, authors rarely have a say in the creative process. More often than not, the finished product is entirely out of their hands, even if their name appears under Special Thanks in the credits. So while many have positive feelings, there are those creators that distance themselves as much as possible from big-screen versions of their work.
Adapting a book to film can be a daunting task. After all, they are entirely different mediums. The cerebral quality of an author’s prose might not translate well on screen. Or perhaps a novel is told from a point of view of an unreliable narrator; this may be changed when shooting starts. What films add to a story in visuals, they take away from in the reader’s ability to imagine the world and characters as they see fit.
The many screenwriters and producers that flit around projects can completely alter the author’s original intent. Understandably, this upsets some authors, even when the adaptation is lauded as much as the source material. Here are some creators that didn’t like how the movie turned out, and weren’t afraid to speak their mind. Here are 15 Creators Who Despise Movie Adaptations of Their Work.
15. P.L. Travers on Mary Poppins
There is an Oscar-nominated film about this controversy starring Tom Hanks, so it’s no surprise Travers made the list. Travers thought the film adaptation of her book about a flying nanny should have been more grounded, and not featured animated dancing penguins as Walt Disney so eagerly suggested.
The story goes that Disney had been pursuing the rights for 20 years, and Travers finally relented. While she did work on the movie, most of her suggestions were ignored. Disney’s nanny was much less strict, and much, much more musical. At the premiere of the film, Travers reportedly cried throughout, despite it being seemingly impossible not to smile while listening to “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious.” She was so upset with the adaptation that her will states no American shall ever be allowed to touch her work again.
14. Anthony Burgess on A Clockwork Orange
Burgess’s is a unique story. His novella was intended to disgust the reader, eliciting hate for the main character Alex and his gang. But when Stanley Kubrick released his Malcom McDowell-starring adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, the reception wasn’t what Burgess had hoped. The sociopathic, violent, milk-drinking droogs became a cult icon, a fun thing to dress up as on Halloween.
Burgess believes the film glorifies the violent and sexual acts of its characters and was completely misunderstood. Since the release of the film, Burgess has stated that he regrets writing the book in its entirety and that the misunderstanding of the film will “pursue me til I die.”
13. Richard Matheson on Omega Man, The Last Man on Earth, and I Am Legend
There are three blockbuster adaptations of Matheson’s sci-fi novel I Am Legend. One stars Charlton Heston facing off against albino zombies, another stars Will Smith and a dog in a similar plight. The first, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth, was a disappointment to Matheson. He disliked the casting of Vincent Price and felt the film was directed without any style. Heston’s Omega Man didn’t bother Matheson because he felt it was hardly even adapted from his work due to the many differences.
When, in 2007, Hollywood announced a third adaptation of his work, this time starring Will Smith, Matheson’s response was priceless. He stated “I don’t know why Hollywood is fascinated by my book when they never care to film it as I wrote it.”
12. Roald Dahl on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is almost universally loved, but the one exception is the original author, Roald Dahl. Dahl thought Gene Wilder was “pretentious” and “bouncy,” found the direction to lack “flair.” Given the subject material in his books, it is not surprising Dahl found the adaptation to not be dark enough, and he despised the Oompa Loompa musical numbers.
Like Travers, Dahl was so disappointed he left an addendum in his will. His stated that the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator may never be adapted to the screen. That’s a shame, because the follow-up involves a the President of the United States, a Space Hotel, and shape-shifting aliens that eat people. We’re just happy Dahl never had to see the Tim Burton adaptation.
11. Bret Easton Ellis on American Psycho
Mary Harron’s darkly comic adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel follows a yuppie on a killing spree through 1980s New York City. The film kick-started Christian Bale’s career and ruined cool business cards for everyone. Ellis was far less pleased with the movie than fans and critics. He attacked film adaptation in general, stating that it “dilutes the book’s power.”
Ellis was upset with the lack of ambiguity in the story. In his book, the reader questions whether or not the murders committed are simply hallucinations. Ellis believes that metaphor is not present in film, that once something is seen visually, it is taken as truth. Therefore, according to Ellis, the bloody events are depicted as literally happening. Ellis was also upset with the directorial choices of Haddon, mostly due to the fact that she is a woman.
Ellis stated that the medium of film is intended for a man because it requires a neutrality towards emotionalism. He infamously stated that Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty, is only famous because “she is a very hot woman.” So take his opinion of his film with a grain of salt.
10. E.B. White on Charlotte’s Web
When E.B. White signed the rights to his children’s book Charlotte’s Web to Hanna-Barbera, it was only under the condition that they didn’t turn it into a musical. Fans of the film know that his request was denied, as we are treated to such classics as “At the Fair” where a rat named Tempelton sings about eating trash.
White was upset with the “jolly songs” that interrupted the film every so often. He reportedly wanted a soundtrack more akin to Mozart, something ominous and dark to match the themes of death and grief. Luckily, the film went in a different direction and is an entirely pleasant experience. The same can be said for the live-action Dakota Fanning-starring film, though White was not around to vocally disparage that version.
9. Michael Ende on The NeverEnding Story
Michael Ende was originally in favor of an adaptation of his beloved novel. He wrote the first draft of the script and encouraged fans to look forward to the film. But when he saw the revised draft, he turned a complete 180. Calling the film a “humongous melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush, and plastic” Ende tried with every ounce of his being to get the film rights back. Of course it was too late, and children of the ’80s were treated to a glorious Jim-Henson-esque delight (unless you’re fans of horses).
Ende continued until his death to rid the world of The NeverEnding Story, fighting legal battle after legal battle. He claimed the movie was an attack on his “honor.” Here’s hoping that if he was alive, he would approve of the future Ava Duvernay adaptation.
8. Truman Capote on Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn may not be a familiar name to all, but the image of her with a long, thin, black cigarette holder and pearl necklace is certainly cemented in history. For her starring role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, an adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel, she received many accolades.
A much harsher critic was Capote, who felt Hepburn was entirely miscast. He had originally intended the role for Marilyn Monroe. For the role of her love interest, he had hoped that he himself would be cast, despite never having acted before. When he got news of the casting decisions, Capote felt betrayed and consistently made Hepburn uncomfortable on set. Even after Hepburn’s death, he exclaimed “[the film] made me want to throw up.”
7. Alan Moore on Watchmen, Constantine, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and V For Vendetta
Alan Moore is a firm believer that his stories were meant to be told using the medium of comic books, and not of films, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from producing many movies based on his work. He dislikes these films so much that he claims to have never even watched them. On certain adaptations, he went further, having his name removed from the marketing of the film. Moore also refuses to accept any money from the profit of the adaptations.
He must be admired for sticking by his guns. And all fairness to Moore, the only solid adaptation is V for Vendetta, and even that one muddles some of the political themes that make Moore’s stories so relevant and dynamic.
6. Ken Kesey on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of only a handful of films that have won Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. But while the Academy loved Milos Foreman’s adaptation, author Ken Kesey was less than thrilled. Kesey was most notably upset with the shift in perspective from Chief Bromden to McMurphy, also finding flaws in Nicholson’s portrayal.
Kesey was involved in the film’s production, but left after being on set for only two weeks. Seeing the many changes happen to his novel caused him to depart and later claim to have never seen the movie. His wife said, however, that he had softened his opinion in the years before his death.
5. Peter Benchley on Jaws
Aside from inspiring a fear of New York beaches (or beaches in general) in adults across America, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws inspired a disillusion of Hollywood in the original author, Peter Benchley. Despite being heralded as one of the greatest films of all time, Benchley was upset with several changes made to his original story. Benchley’s ending involves Hooper being eaten by the shark, as a karmic revenge for sleeping with Brody’s wife. His novel also does not end with the shark exploding into little bits that rain down on the crew of the Orca.
Oddly enough, Benchley’s main reason for disliking the film is because it led to drastic overfishing, driving many shark species to extinction. Feeling like he was partially responsible, Benchley became a vocal ocean conservation activist.
4. Hemingway on A Farewell to Arms (1957)
One of Hemingway’s most famous novels is A Farewell to Arms, a semi-autobiographical story about a World War I ambulance driver. Hemingway was displeased with this second adaptation of the book because he felt it focused too much on the romance between the lead and too little on the horror of war. The ending was also not to his satisfaction. Critics tended to agree, and the movie grossed little over its budget, despite starring the crowd-drawing Rock Hudson.
When Hemingway was told by director David O. Selznick that if the movie did well he would receive a $50,000 bonus, he responded “If, by some chance your movie… does succeed in earning $50,000, I suggest that you take all of that money down to the local bank, have it converted to nickels, and then shove them up your ass until they come out your mouth.”
3. Winston Groom on Forrest Gump
The original script for Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump had a lot more curse words and sex scenes than the light drama seen on cable TV every hour or so today. Author and original screenwriter Winston Groom was not enthused. He had pleaded with the studio that the film retain the book’s edgier aspects, and they had largely ignored him.
Groom’s far less well-known sequel Gump and Co. opens with the line “Don’t never let nobody make a movie out of your life’s story.” A bit on the nose, but considering it is the same person who wrote Forrest Gump, understandably so.
2. Joel and Ethan Coen – Fargo (TV series)
The oddball on this list, the FX series Fargo is not adapted from a novel, but rather a movie of the same name. The Coen brothers’ award-winning 1996 film starred Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and other strong talents.
Noah Hawley’s television show recently ended its second season and both in terms of setting and reviews, follows the suit of the Coen brothers’ picture. It features equally solid story-telling, blending dark comedy with harsh violence perfectly. However, despite great fan and critic response, the Coen brothers are not yet sold on the show.
They claim to be fine with it, saying they are “not particularly interested” and that the show feels “divorced” from their film. Hawley and his team shouldn’t mind; they’ve created one of the best current shows on television.
1. Stephen King on The Shining
Stanley Kubrick is oft considered one of the greatest directors of all time. Stephen King is oft considered one of the greatest (and most prolific) horror authors of all time. In theory, they make for a killer combination. And while many horror fans agree that Kubrick’s The Shining ranks high on their list of scariest movies, King is less gracious with his feedback.
King is vocal about his disapproval of Jack Nicholson’s performance, stating that his Torrance is crazy from the get-go, while King intended Torrance to slowly become a mad-man. King also has issues with Shelly Duvall’s character, calling her a misogynistic caricature, far from his concept of Wendy. Kubrick put the evil in the characters of the film, whereas King wrote a book about an evil hotel. King disliked it so much that he re-adapted his own work as a made-for-TV movie. Needless to say, it wasn’t as successful as Kubrick’s.
Any other examples of creators hating the movies based on their work? Let us know in the comments!
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