6 Adaptations That Fixed The Book (According To The Author)
The problem with Hollywood's refusal to make a movie unless it was a successful book/comic/video game first isn't just a lack of originality. It's that studios are famous for insisting on lots of little changes that tend to suck all the life out of the original. Throw on a happy ending, add a romantic subplot, strip out the social commentary, cast pretty people who'll look nice on the poster.
But every now and then, the movie and TV adaptations get it right ... and we mean to the point where the original author stands up in public and says, "Yeah, this is how I should have written it, sorry." Like ...
The Creator Of The Walking Dead Prefers Almost Every Change The Show Has Made
If you're a fan of The Walking Dead TV series and have mentioned that fact even once on the internet, you've heard a crowd of fans remind you that it was a comic first, by Robert Kirkman. And the comic, they'll point out, is way different -- and way more hardcore (Hint: At one point a baby gets blasted with a shotgun).
But where most writers who see their property spin off the rails in a TV adaptation weep softly into fistfuls of money, Kirkman is barking shouts of joy over every alteration ... also into fistfuls of money. Partly because of a character who wasn't a Kirkman creation at all. This guy:
Surgeon General's Warning: Extended viewing of Daryl Dixon will ruin your underwear,
regardless of your sexual preferences.
Yep. Daryl Dixon, the ass-kicking, crossbow-wielding, (maybe gay?) zombie hunter played by Norman Reedus (aka "Probably The Only Reason You're Still Watching The Show") was invented entirely for the TV series.
His inclusion is actually one of a series of choices Kirkman thinks improved on his own work. He has praised the show for such things as broadening the character of Shane Walsh and changing his death, saying that the TV version is "much cooler than the 'wham, bam, thank you, ma'am' that you get in the comic." In the comic, Shane dies almost as soon as the conflict between him and Rick is introduced, whereas the show actually allows for some tension to build before releasing him back into the wild to pursue other television projects.
"As long as I'm shooting people in the head, I'm good."
Another major change is that the character of Carol Peletier has been completely reimagined (in the show she's grown into a courageous badass; in the comic she gets lonely and commits suicide at the prison), causing Kirkman to say that the new Carol is "one of the best parts in the show." That is, better than most of the parts that are actually faithful to his work.
But his favorite change of all is Daryl, who is absolutely nowhere to be found in any of the billion-something pages of the comic series. He's not even hinted at or alluded to. Hell, he wasn't even in the original script. After Reedus auditioned to play Merle, the angry racist who was ultimately played by perpetually intimidating character actor Michael Rooker, series creator Frank Darabont was so impressed with him that it wasn't even enough to give Reedus a role, he decided to create an entirely new character specifically for Reedus to play. Thus was born Merle's brother, Daryl.
Merle's role was reduced, but he still came back to lend a hand.
Kirkman is every bit as in love with the scruffy, inexplicably motorcycle-riding hero as the show's fans, and has gone on record saying that he'll never bring Daryl into the comic because it would do a disservice to the show. Meanwhile ...
George R.R. Martin Is Apparently Changing His Next Book To Match The Show
The HBO money-printing machine Game Of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series, has made its fair share of changes -- characters who live on in the novels are dead in the show and vice-versa, and some characters are left out of the TV show altogether. Those who remain are usually far more naked than their book counterparts.
That brings us to Osha, a wildling woman who tries to kill the Starks' crippled child, then becomes their kitchen slave and later their best friend, because this is a world of fantasy. She's a relatively minor character whose only reason for existing is, in Martin's words, "to fulfill certain plot points," and as such she has a "one-note personality." Basically, he would've already killed her off in some horrific way, had he deigned her worthy of the amount of words it would take to do so.
The TV series decided to give Osha a much larger role in the story, and hired actress Natalia Tena to fill the role (and didn't have her do full-frontal nudity until the middle of the second season!).
"When your show gets this expensive to produce, sometimes wardrobe's gonna have to take a hit."
And George R.R. Martin freaking loves her. According to Martin, Osha is one of the most interesting characters in the series, despite the fact that he deliberately put the most minimum possible effort into writing her in his books. After watching the show, Martin has completely changed his view on Osha, to the extent that he's actually considering giving her a much bigger role in his upcoming novel:
"The one exception [to the show changing the characters] is Natalia Tena as Osha," Martin said. "Cause she's very different than in the book, but I think she's more interesting. When I bring Osha back in Winds Of Winter, I'll have Natalia in mind and perhaps give the character more interesting things to do."
"Oh, and I'll probably kill ... mmmm ... Tyrion. Because fuck you."
Considering the kinds of "interesting things" George R.R. Martin typically unleashes on his characters, this could either be really good or really terrible news for fans of Osha.
Stephen King Prefers The Film Ending Of Cujo
Among the approximate sextillion books that Stephen King has written in his career, Cujo is both one of the most famous and one of the least complicated in premise: A mother and her young son are trapped in a broken-down car in the sweltering heat, with no food or water, by a giant rabid dog who may or may not be possessed by the undead spirit of a serial murderer.
And is hoarding all the neighbor kids' baseballs.
At the end of the book the mother escapes, the kid winds up dying of heatstroke and dehydration, and the dog gets his head sawed off. It's the sort of book that can make you think that horror authors might be screwed-up people. And in this case, you'd be right.
The big-screen version of Cujo adheres closely to the book, with one major exception: The kid lives at the end. That's the kind of bullshit happy ending that makes most writers swear off working with Hollywood forever (until the next divorce leaves them desperate for a paycheck), but Stephen King is very open about the fact that he thinks the movie got it right. Mainly because the book's sadistic ending was written by a guy King now barely recognizes.
"And, I mean, Cujo? What the hell kind of name is that?"
We've mentioned before that King was so high in the 1980s that he pretty much can't remember writing Cujo at all (among other things). From what he can remember, his original plan was to have the cops storm in and shoot the beast dead, rescuing both the mom and the son in the nick of time. But, as you can imagine, King was in a pretty bad place at the time, and by his own admission, his own personal horrors began to seep into his work. And what he was most afraid of at the time was finding one of his kids dead (instead of liver failure, which is what he maybe should've really been worried about). That horror was the theme of Cujo, Pet Sematary, and It, three novels that are part of what King fans call his "dead toddler period."
When the filmmakers decided not to end their movie with a hysterical mother clutching her lifeless child, King agreed that the change was probably for the best, even if the studio was probably just worried that dead children don't sell tickets.
Nor do child orgies.
Nick Hornby Wishes He'd Written The Movie Ending To About A Boy
About A Boy is the rare novel that has gotten turned into both a movie and a TV series. The film was a 2002 rom-com starring Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, and Toni Collette ...
And knowing the cast is pretty much the same as seeing it.
... the TV series ran on NBC for two seasons (2014 to 2015) before audiences said enough, goddammit and it was canceled. There haven't been any updates on the About A Boy MMO that was to be released on PC later this year.
Anyway, the novel About A Boy is by English author Nick Hornby (he also wrote High Fidelity, the movie about hipster dickheads that launched Jack Black's film career). About A Boy follows the unlikely friendship between a handsome bachelor, Will, and an awkward teenager, Marcus. Will recruits Marcus in a Vince Vaughnian scheme to pick up women, pretending Marcus is his son while schooling the kid in his own romantic pursuit to win the heart of Ellie, his Nirvana-loving crush.
If only Etsy had existed then.
In the end, Ellie gets upset that a shop is using a cardboard cutout of Kurt Cobain to sell their crap, so she breaks the window, landing her and Marcus in legal trouble. Thank God this book was written before Cobain's appearance in Guitar Hero, or else she might have burned the store to the fucking ground.
As soon as it was announced who was to be involved in the 2002 film, Hornby had to know big, dumb changes were coming. It was to be directed by American Pie directors Chris and Paul Weitz and would star Hugh Grant, which is another way of saying it was going to play up the "romantic comedy" aspect to maximum levels. The softening of the ending was therefore to be expected: Marcus and Will wind up at Marcus' school talent show, performing a duet of "Killing Me Softly." You may recognize this as being the exact opposite of breaking a storefront window in a fit of pretentious rage.
Though it comes with significantly higher legal fees once the RIAA gets wind of it.
As with Cujo, it would have appeared to a casual observer that Hollywood had turned this unique story into generic schmaltz for middle-aged moms. But Hornby loved the change, going so far as to say that it's his favorite movie adaptation of any of his novels:
"Those people who have read the book will notice that the ending of the film is completely different, and I love the ending of the film. I think it's true to the spirit of the book, it really, really works, and it's nothing to do with me. I don't feel that I've been raped or robbed in any way; I just think it makes the film work. It's like you've written the first two-thirds and it could spring any way; they've chosen a path that I didn't choose, but now wish I had."
Also, if you learn one thing from this article it's to add Natalia Tena to all adaptations.
Remember, this is a notoriously aloof British author praising the American Pie guys for totally changing his story, so you know that shit is coming from the heart. He didn't even feel "raped" by it!
A Popular Anime Author Demanded That A Film Adaptation Completely Change His Story
If you're not a huge manga or anime fan, then you may never have heard of Attack On Titan, so here's a brief rundown: It's a comic-turned-anime about people who live in a city surrounded by a giant wall, beyond which are gigantic, wandering monsters who routinely burst in and start stomping and eating people. It's basically M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, if the monsters were both real and giant, instead of fake and Adrien Brody-sized.
"YOU WILL ALL COWER BEFORE THE MIGHTY SLIM GOODBODY!"
The manga was adapted for an animated TV show and later two live-action films:
In both cases, creator Hajime Isayama personally requested that the adaptations do away with almost everything that he wrote into the comic -- he basically asked them to throw away everything except the giant monsters.
For example, in the comic, one of the human main characters inexplicably turns out to be a giant monster in disguise. Hajime specifically asked for them to scrap that whole revelation, presumably realizing how little sense it makes. So in the TV show, they replaced the scene with one in which the character just laughs for an absurdly long time, which in terms of social currency is the equivalent of turning into a giant monster. Hajime thought the change was, in his own words, "SUPER EXCELLENT!!"
He then cackled for several minutes until it was clear that he was not going to transform.
When the movie went into production, Hajime asked that they make so many changes to his original story that screenwriter Tomohiro Machiyama started to worry that fans would be angry. Hajime thought that the main character from the comic, a ninja action hero named Eren with an unquenchable thirst for giant monster vengeance, should be an ordinary kid who pretty much shits himself every time he sees a monster. He also asked them to completely eliminate a character named Levi -- because, he argued, "Levi" is a Western name and wouldn't make sense in a Japanese movie set in Japan. It is our duty to assume that when the filmmakers asked him why the character's name couldn't simply be changed, Hajime wordlessly slapped everyone in the room.
Ray Bradbury Praised The Fahrenheit 451 Movie For Saving A Character Who Dies In The Book
Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is set in an Orwellian dystopia in which books are illegal and the population is kept zombified by a state-controlled media (the intended message being that television is evil, or something). The main character is Guy Montag, a government employee responsible for burning any contraband literature. He eventually meets a hippie woman named Clarisse, who convinces him the error of his ways before promptly getting hit by a car and dying in the first chapter. As you might imagine, this is a huge bummer.
"She promised that she would read some book called 'Kama Sutra' to me."
But hey, this isn't just a novel that people read for fun. This shit is important! They assign it in schools! Adapting this for the screen is like adapting the damned Bible -- you're not going to go messing around with that shit to please test audiences.
When the book was adapted into a movie in 1966, one of the key changes was to skip over the scene where Clarisse gets mowed down by a vehicle and give her a more prominent role as Montag's love interest, possibly because the screenwriters recognized the value of not pissing off the audience in the first 30 minutes. In the end, Montag escapes the evil regime and is reunited with Clarisse.
"Hooray, only 8 billion people left to liberate!"
Once again you could imagine that Ray Bradbury might have issued a heavy sigh at having such a transparently Hollywood cliche stuffed into his story. ("Seriously? 'The guy gets the girl' is where you have this ending up?") But he was thrilled by the decision. After watching the movie, he proclaimed that the ending, in which Montag and Clarisse wind up together in a community of people dedicated to preserving books, was "commiserate with the ending of Citizen Kane." That means that either Bradbury really liked it or he never saw Citizen Kane.
According to Bradbury, he preferred the film to his work because he felt that Clarisse was "too good a character to lose," and that the movie version injected some hope into the narrative. Considering the fact that Fahrenheit 451 is about a dystopian shit-o-verse and that the novel ends with a nuclear holocaust, this is kind of a weird thing to say, but who are we to argue with Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury would later maintain in interviews that Clarisse was an inspiration to him and that he had been wrong in killing her off, saying, "Thank God for the gift of making that film." At this point, we're wondering why he didn't just go back and George Lucas her back to life in his novel.
"OK, the new edition says you were saved by ... What the fuck are midi-chlorians?"
Cathal McGuigan writes about the news, boxing, and nonsense from Derry, Ireland. You can follow him here.
Not everyone gets it like these people did, though. For movies and shows that got it completely wrong, check out 4 Movies That Got the Source Material's Point Exactly Wrong and 29 Movie Adaptations That Left Out the Best Parts.
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Imagine being trapped aboard the doomed Titanic on an icy Atlantic. . . with the walking dead. Check out Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon's Deck Z: The Titanic.