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Arts and Entertainment

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

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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.


When it was announced a few weeks ago that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were teaming up to make a film out of Alice Sebold's outstanding The Lovely Bones, we wondered if they'd make it better (is that even possible?) or botch it. We mused on casting options. Who would be good, who would be great, who would surely ruin it. We've been on constant IMDB watch to see what there is to see. Last week, it was announced that Rachel Weisz will play the role of Susie Salmon's mother. This is excellent news. Weisz + Spielberg + Jackson should = a proper version of the book. Right? Remains to be seen. The most critical role, the young Susie Salmon, has yet to be cast. The casting boards are blowing up with speculations.

All this casting hoo-hah and Premiere's recent "20 Movies Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You" got us thinking about some less-certain formulas that are currently making the rounds all over studio offices in our fair city. A few book-to-film projects that piqued our interest:

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel could be easily botched. Big time. While we loved our comic book artists in print, we can't imagine who might play them properly in film. Or how film might accurately and not-cheesily capture the fantastical comic story they write about the lovely Luna Moth. We were excited when we read that Scott Rudin would produce, Stephen Daldry would direct and both Natalie Portman & Tobey Maguire were on board. Natalie as Luna? Yum. Yet, after some swithcheroos at Paramount, it's all on hold. Botch Factor: Medium to high.


On the Road by Jack Kerouac -- Kerouac's seminal road trip book, the one that came before all others, and the one that defines road-tripping of any sort, it seems that this should be a fairly easy film to make. Right? We envision shades of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with a litle Bukowski: Born into This thrown in for good measure. While Walter Salles is set to direct, the casting remains elusive. Botch factor: Low.


Choke by Chuck Palahniuk - Perhaps the best adaptation of all time in which we loved the book and loved it again after seeing the film is Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. The good news is that Chuck is busy working on two more film versions of his novels - the hilarious Choke and equally hilarious Invisible Monsters. Sam Rockwell is attached to Choke - which makes us giddy. If anyone can make the fake-choking Victor Mancini come alive on screen, Sam's the man. Botch Factor: Very low. Excitement to see it factor: High, high, high.


A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole - Another Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel that is, well, the bee's knees. Extraordiary in its funny, witty, biting way, this book and it's larger than life character, Ignatius J. Reilly, seems ideal for movie-making. Yet, because the obese Reilly and the other almost-charicature characters are so original, casting could be tricky. Rumored cast includes Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore, but there's scant mention of it anywhere on IMDB or other boards. Botch Factor: Medium.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers -- You either love Dave Eggers or you hate him. Yet, if there was one book you'd like him for (besides his latest), it would be this one. A memoir-esque account of his struggle to raise his brother after their parents die, it's both tragic and funny in the way that such moments in life often are. The rights have been bought and sold so many times that it's anyone's guess where it will end up. Rumored cast includes Tom Cruise. Ahem, Tom Cruise? Are you kidding? Oh boy. Botch Factor: Perilously high.

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As we look at the long, long list of novels-to-movies that are being bandied about, we can't help but wonder which films will bring new readers to the books and which ones will turn people away forever. Only time and the Hollywood movie-making system will tell. Which novels do you want to see on the silver screen soon?