7 Film Adaptations the Author Hated For Insane Reasons
Although books are a frequent source of inspiration for filmmakers, Hollywood doesn't always see eye-to-eye with the authors of those books, because books are for nerds, so who cares what they think. Understandably, this often doesn't sit well with the writers. But it doesn't mean the author is always right -- in fact, some of our favorite movies are books that Hollywood "ruined" in the eyes of their authors. Movies like ...
American Psycho is the perennial favorite about a psychopathic yuppie in 1980s New York who may or may not be a serial killer, depending on how you interpret the film's vague third act. It's easily Christian Bale's second-most-famous role, after his work in Newsies.
Tied with Little Women.
But for Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, the movie falls short for two reasons: it's simply not ambiguous enough, and the director didn't have a penis.
In Ellis' opinion, his book is unfilmable because its stream-of-consciousness narrative can't be faithfully adapted into a visual medium (and to be fair, the book is done in the style of a rambling and incoherent revenge fantasy of the kind typically found scribbled in a notebook in a bus station locker). Ellis thinks that the story's central ambiguity is ruined by physically seeing a naked Christian Bale chasing a prostitute down a hallway with a chainsaw, because seeing it forces the viewer to conclude that it actually happened as opposed to happening only in the character's mind. According to Ellis, there's just no ambiguity or metaphor in film, which seems to indicate that he has never seen a David Lynch movie.
"I only enjoy backwards-talking dwarfs in erotic stories."
But the other problem with the movie, according to Ellis, is that it was directed by a woman. When asked for his opinion about the director, Mary Harron, Ellis said, "I think it's a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality [toward] the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors." He also infamously claimed that Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow has a career only because she's a "very hot woman."
Hey, you can call him a douchebag if you want, but you can't deny that the movie camera was invented by a man and was designed to be operated by the testicles. It's just biology, folks. This is why if somebody hands you a movie camera, you shouldn't touch it without gloves.
"This is all so confusing to my estrogen!"
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is the film that managed to endear an unapologetic child predator to generations of moviegoers. Given the paradoxically creepy nature of Roald Dahl, the world-famous children's author who penned the source novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it's perhaps not that surprising that Dahl hated the movie for not being dark enough.
Dahl was at odds with the film from the very beginning. He had no respect for director Mel Stuart, insisting the man had "no talent or flair whatsoever," and he hated the film's numerous "trashy" musical numbers (even though they all celebrate the ironic murder of children, which, as any fan of Dahl knows, was his favorite subject).
But Dahl was particularly upset about the Oompa Loompas. In his novel, the Oompa Loompas were African pygmies, working in perpetual servitude to make candy for their wealthy Anglican benefactor. Dahl saw absolutely no problem with this, but the NAACP disagreed, so the film transformed the Oompa Loompas into a platoon of creepy, orange-skinned little people of indeterminate race. Dahl eventually agreed that changing the Oompa Loompas to avoid offending the African-American community was probably for the best, and subsequent versions of the book also reflected that change, although he did describe the NAACP's demand as "real Nazi stuff," because we're pretty sure Dahl was fucking crazy.
Possibly as a result of his sex dementia.
But as production continued, Dahl became frustrated by the producers' insistence on making Wonka the center of the story, which culminated in them changing the title of the film to focus on Willy Wonka and the chocolate-bar marketing tie-in the producers had arranged. Dahl hated everything about the film's portrayal of Wonka, especially the casting of Gene Wilder, whom Dahl felt was "pretentious" and "insufficiently gay and bouncy." Dahl was evidently not a fan of Wilder's subdued, borderline chilling characterization of Wonka, a man who owns slaves and murders children in a black-magic house of candy.
Despite collecting a $300,000 writing fee from the studio, Dahl ultimately disowned the film and actively campaigned against it in several magazine and TV interviews. Even after the movie's success substantially boosted his book sales, Dahl still claimed the whole experience had left him enormously depressed, so it is arguably for the best that he didn't live to see the Tim Burton version.
"Et tu, Christopher?"
The 1973 animated Hanna-Barbera classic Charlotte's Web has gone down in history as one of the greatest non-Disney cartoons ever made, despite facing stiff competition from FernGully and Cats Don't Dance. However, while the film has managed to endear itself to parents and lazy daycare-center employees for decades, it did not sufficiently charm author E.B. White, who considered the whole thing a nightmare that he'd prefer to forget.
"Ohhh, you mean the guy who wrote the novelization of the movie?"
When Hanna-Barbera purchased the film rights to his novel, the only demands White made were that he should have final approval on the design of Charlotte the spider, and that the film should under no circumstances be turned into a musical. So, of course, they turned it into a musical.
White lamented in interviews that the film was "interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don't care much for jolly songs." This was apparent by the fact that he had written a book about a pig living in constant fear of getting butchered by his owners, only to be saved by a spider writing human words in her web before finally succumbing to spider old age. And he had presented this as a story for children.
"And then Charlotte's hundreds of babies all fly into the sky and, statistically, at least a few end up in your hair."
According to the film's writer, Earl Hamner Jr., White wanted an orchestral soundtrack based on the work of Mozart, something much more ominous with a "sort of thrumming, brooding sound, like the sound of crickets in the fall, or katydids, or cicadas. It should be a haunting, quiet, steady sound -- subdued and repetitive." White's novel was about death and grief, so he wanted children to leave the theater clutching their parents in existential despair, drowning in an unyielding torrent of hopeless tears. Hanna-Barbera wanted children to actually enjoy the film, so they threw in some songs to lighten the mood. We'll let you decide which of those would have sold more tickets.
And speaking of beloved children's classics ...
The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story is one of those movies that defined your childhood, unless you were born after the 1980s and just refuse to watch the classics that were treasured by previous generations. We suppose that somewhere out there is the rare kid who saw the movie and just hated it (maybe even for reasons other than the gratuitous horse-drowning scene) and if so, then you have something in common with Michael Ende, the author of the novel on which the movie is based. You see, Ende despised The NeverEnding Story so much that he fought until his dying day to destroy it.
Life imitates art?
At first, Ende was in favor of a movie adaptation and defended the venture to skeptical fans of his novel. Ende had already written the screenplay with director Wolfgang Petersen, so he felt pretty confident that the movie would be faithful to his original story. That is, until the revised screenplay made its way to his desk. The producers of the film had hired another writer to "punch up" Ende's script without telling him, because they'd already paid for the film rights to his novel and quite honestly didn't give one trumpeting Bavarian pine cone shit about his opinion.
When Ende read the revised script, he was horrified, claiming that they had transformed his book into a comic strip. He tried to get the film rights back, but by that point it was too late. So Ende had his name removed from the credits, and when the film was finally released, he declared it a personal attack on his integrity as a writer, a "humungous melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush, and plastic," because he was apparently unclear what movies were when he signed away the film rights in the first place.
"Yeah, we're not taking script notes from someone who came up with the name 'Moonchild,' hippie."
Even after removing himself from any official connection to the film, he spent the rest of his life trying unsuccessfully to stamp it out of existence through a series of injunctions and legal battles that he referred to as a "matter of honor." He even held a press conference in Stuttgart to denounce the film, which is a strategy historically reserved for the indictment of war criminals. However, considering that the franchise eventually devolved into direct-to-video '90s camp nonsense starring Jack Black, Ende's righteous fury seems at least somewhat justified.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Audrey Hepburn's iconic role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's is arguably the only reason Hepburn is famous. Even if you've never seen the film, you've seen the image of Hepburn in a pearl necklace with a black cigarette holder staring earnestly out at you from countless dorm room walls and shoulder bags.
It's the Goodfellas of sorority decor.
However, not everybody was happy with Hepburn's casting, and by "everybody" we mean Truman Capote, the famous novelist who wrote the book. Capote was so outraged by her presence that he said the studio had "double-crossed [him] in every conceivable way" by putting Hepburn in the film. Apparently, the novel's original title was Under No Circumstance Will You Make This Into a Movie Starring Audrey Hepburn.
Although Capote described Hepburn as one of his favorite people, he'd written the book with a specific actress in mind: Marilyn Monroe. Furthermore, he had every expectation of playing the male lead opposite Monroe himself, despite the fact that he had never acted before. That's right -- Capote wanted Breakfast at Tiffany's to be a film about Monroe being romanced by one of the most famous gay men in human history.
"What's Hannibal know about getting babes that I don't?"
The fact that Capote felt personally betrayed by the casting of Hepburn was so well known that Hepburn felt uncomfortable whenever Capote was on set. Even after Hepburn's death, he maintained that one of the greatest disappointments he had ever suffered was her presence in the film, saying, "It was the most miscast film I've ever seen. It made me want to throw up." Yep, not even her tragic death softened his rage.
It may surprise you to learn that the classic German anti-war film Das Boot is not about a boot at all, but a submarine. The critically acclaimed adaptation of Lothar-Gunther Buchheim's novel launched the international career of writer-director Wolfgang Petersen, who would go on to make an eternal enemy of Michael Ende (see The NeverEnding Story, above). Audiences and critics alike have praised Das Boot for its sobering portrayal of war, but Buchheim disagreed with the praise, insisting that Petersen's adaptation of his novel was a "cheap, shallow American action flick" that bordered on Nazi propaganda, which is just about the furthest thing from a positive endorsement or review anyone could ever give to a film.
The issue was that, stemming from Buchheim's firsthand experience aboard U-boat operations, the film is simply too unrealistic -- he felt that Petersen had injected too much tension, action, and emotion into what should have been a boring and relatively routine series of events handled by seasoned professionals. In other words, Petersen had made an exciting movie, which Buchheim regarded as a personal slight. Buchheim's criticisms included pointing out such flagrant inaccuracies as the way the captain adjusted his seat and the way the sailors put on their pants.
He was also unimpressed by the way the film "overdramatized" events. In one scene, the U-boat is forced to dive too deep, and rivets start popping out of the bulkheads. Buchheim complained that it was silly to portray multiple rivets popping out when any good sailor would know that just one rivet failing would be cause for alarm.
All of these notes would have been fine if the film's target audience was composed entirely of World War II submarine veterans, but Petersen was aiming for a slightly broader appeal.
Senior-citizen sub captains are just not a featured marketing demo.
Another of Buchheim's complaints was the film's length -- he felt two hours was not nearly enough time to give audiences an accurate perception of crewing a German U-boat, and had actually written an early draft of the screenplay that ran over six hours long, which the studio understandably rejected. A tally of Buchheim's complaints indicates his ideal vision of Das Boot would have been a bunch of dudes calmly nodding at each other in a submarine for six hours.
Mary Poppins, the classic Disney film pairing Julie Andrews with Dick Van Dyke and a bunch of animated penguins, almost didn't get made -- P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins series of novels, really didn't want Walt Disney or his schlocky commercial nonsense anywhere near her stories. But, as was recently dramatized in the film Saving Mr. Banks, Disney eventually won her over, and the rest is movie history.
As with most problems in life, all it took was a rich, white man to sort it out.
But as it turns out, that version of events (produced by Walt Disney Pictures) included a few inaccuracies, not the least of which is the fact that Travers was never happy with Walt Disney. She fought the production of Mary Poppins tooth and nail, and once the film was released, she spent the rest of her life hating it with every fiber of her being.
Travers resisted Disney's attempts to buy the rights to her book for 20 years, until financial difficulties eventually drove her to give in to the mouse overlord's inescapable whims. However, she was against just about every aspect of the studio's attempt to adapt the story, including the animated penguin sequences, the silly made-up words like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and the film's casting as a whole.
"This fantasy story about a flying nanny should be taken seriously, dammit!"
Travers hated Andrews as Mary Poppins and was presumably at least three times as offended by Van Dyke's hideous British accent. Her preferred choices for the role of Bert the chimney sweep were Laurence Olivier or Richard Burton, though neither of those dudes would likely have been too excited about playing a whimsical singing chimney sweep in a movie about a magic flying nanny. Travers' opposition to the production was so extreme that she objected to the color red appearing at any point in the film, which you may recognize as being totally insane.
When Van Halen's actions have a more rational basis than your own, it's time to reassess.
When she finally saw the finished film, Travers was so upset that she was reduced to tears. She reportedly stormed up to Disney and demanded massive rewrites, to which Disney replied, "Pamela, the ship has sailed," before twirling his mustache and disappearing into the celebratory after-party.
Towards the end of her life, Travers agreed to a stage version of Mary Poppins, under the conditions that no one who worked on the Disney film could be involved and that only British writers would be hired to adapt it. According to some sources, she even cursed Disney out in her will, presumably to toss one final jab at him when he eventually thaws himself out and reads it.
From his orbiting throne of Small World skulls.
James loves movies and cheese. He made a Twitter account just so you could follow him.
For more times adaptations went wrong, check out 5 Video Game Adaptations That Missed the Point of the Movie and The 6 Most Inexplicable Cartoon Adaptations Ever.
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