When author Paula Hawkins’ suspense thriller The Girl On The Train came out last year, it became a runaway bestseller and the film rights were immediately snatched up. Now, less than two years later, she’s thrilled with the film adaptation, out in UK cinemas today.
But not all authors are pleased with the director’s take on their beloved novels. We’ve all experienced that moment where a character comes on screen and we want to jump up from the sofa and shout “That’s not how I imagined it!” – and we aren’t even the writers!
So let’s take a look at five films adapted from books and the not-so-enthusiastic reactions from the authors… You might be surprised.
Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971)
It would be an understatement to say that Roald Dahl was not impressed with the colourful Warner Brothers film version of his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, he publicly criticised it in numerous TV and radio interviews, saying he hated everything, from the portrayal of the Oompa Loompas to the soundtrack. Dahl’s main complaint was that the film focused more on Wonka than on Charlie, who he felt was the real star of the book. The title change was also tied in with the release of Wonka chocolate bars, so it wasn’t negotiable. Dahl maintained throughout his life that Gene Wilder was the wrong man to play Willy Wonka and called him pretentious and not gay or bouncy enough. But it’s this iconic role Wilder is now most fondly remembered for.
The Neverending Story (1984)
A “humungous melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush, and plastic,” is how German author Michael Ende described the epic film version of his book. Whether you were a child in the 1980’s or have children who can’t wait for the endless re-runs at Christmas, you’re bound to recognise the main characters and seemingly never-ending soundtrack – it’s become an all-time fantasy favourite. Ende was originally enthusiastic about adapting his novel for film, and was happy with the script as he wrote it with director Wolfgang Petersen. However, another writer was paid to ‘revise’ it, and once Ende saw the new version, he tried to get the film rights back, but too late. He insisted on having his name removed from the credits, and continued to declare throughout his life that he hated it.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Another all-time favourite, author PL Travers’ Mary Poppins was only made into a film by Walt Disney after financial difficulties forced her to sell him the film rights. He’d been asking for 20 years! She fought all the way through the filming process to eliminate some of the most-loved elements of the film, including ‘Let’s go fly a kite’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, the animated scenes, and she even objected to Dick Van Dyke and the portrayal of Mrs Banks as a suffragette. In fact, her objections were so varied, and so insistent, that a hit film was made about her objections, called Saving Mr Banks. And ironically, since Saving Mr Banks romanticised her relationship with Walt Disney and the production team so much, she probably would’ve hated that too.
I Am Legend (2007)
Moving on to adult films, Richard Matheson’s book I am Legend has been adapted for the big screen not once, not twice, but three times – and he didn’t like a single version. He pronounced himself disappointed with The Last Man on Earth (1964), and said of The Omega Man (1971) that it was so far removed from his book that it didn’t even bother him. Speaking about I Am Legend, he said “The only writer to properly adapt my novel is me. It won’t happen though. I don’t know why Hollywood is so fascinated with my book, when they just keep coming back to it not to do it as I wrote it.” He mentioned Kurt Russell would be his favourite choice to play main character Robert Neville – and Will Smith got the part. Then his ending was entirely changed, after it didn’t go down well with test audiences.
The Shining (1980)
One of the most popular horror films of all time, The Shining is definitely one of those you need to keep a pillow handy for while watching. Stephen King was pretty disappointed with the film as an adaptation of his novel, he called it both dreadfully unsettling and dazzling stylistically – surely a compliment for a horror film? He didn’t like Jack Nicholson being cast as Jack Torrance, saying in an interview: “I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where he played the same part,” and said that Wendy Torrance was presented by Shelly Duvall as a “sort of screaming dishrag” – harsh words!
Have you read the books that came before the films, and do you agree with the authors? Take a look at our great cinema deals here.