Books to Film: When Your Favorite Novel Becomes a Terrible Movie

From time to time, LAist will take a look at the many book-to-film projects underway in Hollywood. We'll explore the books we love and why we're over-the-moon excited or just plain worried about the film projects that bear their name.

The Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldThe Lovely Bones — When we first examined the books-to-film projects underway in Hollywood, we were on regular IMBD watch for casting updates about Alice Sebold's novel-about-to-be-film The Lovely Bones directed by Peter Jackson. So what's the latest? Hold on to your hats: Ryan Gosling is signed on to play the role of Jack Salmon, Stanley Tucci is set to play George Harvey and both Susan Sarandon & Michael Imperioli are attached to the project. Rumor also has it that pop-sensation AJ Michalka will be cast. Quite an upgrade since we last checked IMBD! But wait, there's more: the much-talked about, much-blogged about, big message-board question has been answered: the role of Susie Salmon is set to be played by...Saoirse Ronan. Huh? What? Who? She's an Irish lass (daughter of actor Paul Ronan) who can currently be seen in yet another novel adaptation, Ian McEwan's Atonement. IMBD boards are speculating that her performance in Atonement could earn her an Oscar. Botch Factor: Oh. So. Low.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

City of Ember - Speaking of Saoirse Ronan, she's currently filming the first novel in Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember Series, The City of Ember. The book, (nay, the entire series) has a cult following with a very vocal fan-base. Something that would be quite easy to screw up, if you ask us. Especially because a good but relatively un-tested director, Gil Kenan, is attached. However. Oh, however. A sure way to raise the quality factor of the film: get Bill Murray, Tim Robbins & Martin Landau on board. The lead heroine & hero will be played by Saoirse Ronan (Lina) and Harry Treadaway (Doon). We're not saying it's foolproof, but damn if that isn't an excellent start. The bigger question is how will the art department and Nacho Libre cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet pull off the post-apocalyptic sci-fi world DuPrau has created? Botch Factor: Medium.


Blindness by Jose Saramago Blindness - Jose Saramago's brilliant Nobel Prize-winning masterpiece is about to become a film, it pains us to say. If ever there was a novel that could be easily botched by Hollywood, this is it. One of the most harrowing, thought-provoking, powerful examinations of man's will for survival in the face of apocalypse, this novel has all the right elements for a film...if placed in the right hands. If not, it could all go awry rather quickly. The good news: City of God and Constant Gardener director Fernanco Meirelles will steer this mighty ship. Even better news: Sandra Oh, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal & Danny Glover have been cast. Interesting film factiod: the only way Saramago would agree to have his novel filmed was that it must not be set in any recognizable countries. So they're filming in...Japan, Brazil & Canada. Hmmm. With this director and these actors, it seems the film has a chance of living up to the gorgeous intensity of the novel. We do have one question: who will play the dog of tears? Botch Factor: Medium-ish.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love in the Time of Cholera - The epic Gabriel García Márquez novel-as-film will be released next month and we're biting our fingernails wondering if Hollywood got it right or went way, way over the top with this love story. In the same way that The Piano seemed over-wrought, we suspect that the screenplay by the same writer Ronald Harwood might render this film overly-sentimental also. Javier Bardem plays telegraph operator Florentino Ariza and Giovanna Mezzogiorno plays his star-crossed love Fermina Daza. John Leguizamo plays the Fermina's tough father who banishes her to new husband Dr. Juvenal Urbino, played by Benjamin Bratt. Despite seemingly good casting, this has all the ingredients of a film that tries so hard to be Oscar-worthy, that everything in it might veer towards camp. Over-acting + a dramatic film score + sweeping scenery + a world-wide literature classic = dicey. Botch factor: High.


There are so many others that have just been announced and we can't tell if we're excited or terrified by what Hollywood may do to our much-beloved novels. A few honorable mentions to look at next time: Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters, Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons and William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

Which films are you hoping to see on the silver screen and which book-to-film and horrible casting match-ups are making you cringe?