Top Ten Bungled Book Adaptations
This is the time of year when all the big Oscar contenders come out to play, and there’s no better route to having your movie taken seriously than by basing it on an already-serious book. Okay, it didn’t really work for Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi could go either way, and Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby has already removed itself from the pool, but the fact remains: if you want to get respect on the big screen, being based on a novel is the way to go. Unless you mess it up like these guys did.
10: The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Why not make a movie of The Bible? It’s packed with sex and violence and stuff getting wrecked – it’s basically 2012, but everyone’s wearing less clothing. Unfortunately this 1965 adaptation invented the term “stunt casting” as the Bible’s various tales of suffering and redemption were acted out by everyone from Shelley Winters to crooner Pat Boone, Telly “Kojak” Savalas to Robert “I’m innocent I tells ya” Blake, John Wayne to Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury. The best story about this film is that the director once asked Wayne – who plays a centurion at the Crucifixion who utters the immortal line “truly this was the son of God” in his usual cowboy drawl – to add a bit more awe into his performance. Wayne then delivered the line as: “Awww, truly this was the son of God”.
9: Planet of the Apes.
Yes, it was a book before it was a movie (and we’re talking about the Tim Burton movie here too): French author (he also wrote the novel that Bridge Over the River Kwai was based on) Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel was largely a serious look at what makes us human and what an advanced Ape civilisation would be like – these apes have cities and commerce, not just huts and horses. It’s a satire along the lines of Gulliver’s Travels (no, not the Jack Black movie, oh God no) and Animal Farm. Tim Burton’s movie is along the lines of what’s left of a good meal two days after your body has digested it. Surprisingly, the generally ridiculed ending of the Burton film is actually closer to the original book than the “damn you all to hell” ending of the Charlton Heston film. Doesn’t make the movie any better though.
8: Less Than Zero
In Bret Easton Ellis’ novel, our narrator Clay is a bisexual drug user who wanders around looking at a lot of messed-up stuff in 1980s LA. In the movie, Clay (Andrew McCarthy) steps up to save his junkie best friend-turned-male-prostitute Julian (Robert Downey Jr), only to have Julian die because drugs are bad. This is pretty much the exact opposite of the book. Cue joke about the movie having “less than zero” in common with the book. But hey, The Bangles version of 'Hazy Shade of Winter' is awesome!