They had their chance on the big screen and for whatever reason failed to live up to their potential. Granted, even if the source material is strong, some movie adaptations of books just aren't meant to be. For every success like The Godfather making the jump look effortless, there's a story like A Confederacy of Dunces that's been kicking around for what seems like forever and probably should never be made into a movie. But, whether it was the storyline, the Hollywood machine, or just bad timing that created obstacles to their success, the following book-to-film translations have a legitimate shot at superseding mediocre-at-best first performances by learning from the mistakes of their past.
Frank Herbert's Dune is one of the best-selling and most beloved sci-fi novels of all time, and with good reason. It's a pretty awesome, well-thought-out tale. Set in a futuristic feudal society, the epic saga has captured the imagination of science-fiction fans since it was released in the 1960s. The Dune universe has so permeated the geekdom lexicon, every nerd worth his or her salt has committed Dune's fear axiom to memory ...
... to be pulled out right before getting a beat down.
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I must not fear ...
As a little kid, I loved to read, and I mean really loved to read. It was my escape. I read everything available I wasn't supposed to, regularly sneaking books from the adult bookshelf. The Shining, Fear of Flying, you name it. If it was pop and pulp it was in my home and I read it. Thanks to reading The Exorcist under blankets with a flashlight, I didn't sleep the entire year of third grade. By the time I got to Dune, I was plowing through books by Jackie Collins and other smutty stuff, so it was a bit of a surprise how taken I was with this science-fiction universe, and soon read all the books published in the Frank Herbert series. When I found out there was a Dune movie, I was super jazzed. Yay!!
Unfortunately, director David Lynch appears to have used the book as a drink coaster rather than source material for his film. I could nerd you out with everything he got wrong, including the ridiculous ending and unnecessary flourishes that aren't even in the book. But instead I'll just point to his interpretation of the Bene Gesserits, an all-female religious order of temptresses known for their seductive wiles and sexual talents, as proof.
Sexy in what universe?
Released in 1984, Lynch's movie was a critical and commercial failure. Roger Ebert gave it one star and declared it the worst movie of the year. Not even the star power of Sting parading around in a winged codpiece could save it.
However, thanks to its enduring popularity, Lynch's abomination isn't the only attempt to adapt the Dune story. In 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel (before it became Syfy) premiered Frank Herbert's Dune, a three-part miniseries, to mixed reviews. In 2008, another attempt was made to get a feature film off the ground, this time through Paramount Pictures with Peter Berg set to direct, but thanks to creative differences and staffing changes, the project appears to have been scrapped.
The mistake everyone seems to keep making is trying to shoehorn a ridiculous amount of information into a single movie or short miniseries. The Dune universe is intricate, and the byzantine plotlines make no sense unless you have a pretty good grasp of the nuances of the history of its entire fictional world. In addition to the original book, there are now a total of 17 sequels/prequels in the Dune canon. With so much material, it would be smarter to take the Game of Thrones route and roll it out over several television seasons.
Max Thieriot as Paul Atreides and Jessica Chastain as his mom, Lady Jessica.
4Breakfast at Tiffany's
Wait, how is Breakfast at Tiffany's even on this list? It's a beloved cinema classic and partly responsible for the popularity of that overpriced chain jewelry story that everyone mistakenly believes turns you into a classy person by virtue of shopping there.
Spoiler: You're paying a 100 percent markup for the box.
As a movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a fine vehicle for showcasing how adorable Audrey Hepburn looks in various outfits. Loosely based on the novella by Truman Capote, the film chronicles career party girl Holly Golightly and her misadventures in 1960s Manhattan.
Capote, who also penned the gritty true crime drama In Cold Blood, wrote a darker, more poignant tale than the sappy one that made it to the big screen. But that isn't the real problem. Thanks to one of the most cringe-inducing "comic" caricature portrayals ever, Breakfast at Tiffany's is basically unwatchable today.
Mickey Rooney's turn as Holly's bucktoothed, squinty-eyed Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, is routinely called out for its promotion of negative Asian stereotypes. Swapping Rs for Ls, myopically bumbling around -- it's a bizarre attempt at racism-laced physical comedy. Check out this video for a less time-consuming example.
Explaining the choice to cast Rooney in the role of a person of Japanese descent and having him play it so broadly, director Blake Edwards reasoned in a documentary on the making of the film, "At that time it was perfectly OK," but, he admitted, he wished he hadn't in retrospect. Considering the Mr. Yunioshi storyline is basically nonexistent in the book, it seems like a pretty egregious error. But not everyone is so hard on Rooney's portrayal. When asked about it after the movie was dropped from a public screening in Sacramento, California, Rooney talked about how much fun he had doing it and also said:
Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it -- not one complaint. Every place I've gone in the world people say, "God, you were so funny." Asians and Chinese come up to me and say, "Mickey, you were out of this world."
For additional proof that the uproar was over nothing, his eighth wife, Jan, helpfully mentioned that the couple were "married in Hong Kong and love Chinese art, food, culture, and medicine" and said the role was "meant to be fun." Wheee!
In addition to dropping Rooney's embarrassing "yellowface" Fu Manchu routine, which is a must, a remake would allow for the novella's darker, more melancholy roots to be explored. Originally set in the 1940s against the backdrop of World War II, a fresh take could skip the happy ending and return to Capote's original themes of longing and ill-fated love.
Anne Hathaway as Holly Golightly and Ian Somerhalder as "Fred," the narrator and Holly's unrequited suitor.