Should The Movie Version Keep To The Book?

Opened bookI am getting inspiration for posts in so many places.  God bless you all for helping me out…HA!  The inspiration for this post came from All Souls Trilogy Discussion on Facebook.  There is a thread were we are discussing movies that Hollywood buys the rights to and makes into movies.  I believe that when you take a book to make into a movie you have an ethical obligation to take the story and convey it onscreen the way the author intended.  Anything less is cheating as far as I am concerned.

I do not have a problem with enhancing a story, but changing it up until it bares no resemblance to the book is just off the charts.  Or taking a crucial element of a character and altering it which end up changing the character’s nature.  For instance, the more I think about it, the more I really do not like the fact that John Thornton beats up an employee in the 2004 BBC version of North and South.  Adding that element to the onscreen Thornton does an injustice to his true character.  Thornton is actually not violent at all, nor is he necessarily quick-tempered as the 2004 version suggests.   And as much as I LOVE the movie, I find Thornton of the book much more in touch with his feelings of love for Margaret and how she has affected him than the Richard Armitage version.

The movie Under The Tuscan Sun bares just about no resemblance to the book.  I admit that travel essay books usually need spicing up for film, but this was just ridiculous.  I guess since the book was on the NY Times Best Seller list for two and a half years, Hollywood wanted the name to draw people into the theaters.  I was one of them.

The Book

The Book


The Movie

The Movie


Having said all that, a few months ago I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum for the first time.  I was very surprised to realize that it is a bit different from the movie starring Judy Garland and we all know how awesome the movie still is to this day.

The Movie

The Movie


the wonderful wizard of oz

I still feel that Hollywood should stay close to a book as it is interpreted by the author.  If reading a book inspires you that is great.  Take that inspiration and tell your story the way you want and then give it its own title.  To take books, especially best sellers and claim to be making a movie out of it when you only really want certain components does not seem ethical to me.

I read Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell when I was in my late teens.  It is a huge historical romance novel, but Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood and David O. Selznick did a fantastic job bringing it to the silver screen in 1939.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind - 1939

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind – 1939


The Book



  1. Hamlette says:

    I have to disagree. You always have to change things when translating from one medium to another. Movies, by necessity, are shorter, and so if you have to change things to get your point across, that’s just what you do. If you take a movie and turn it into a novel, again you have to change things so that the pacing works, the characterizations suit the medium, etc. Even when they turn a play into a film, things have to change to suit the medium — if you simply use the play as a screenplay, it almost always comes off odd.

    But I’ve come to realize that I am not a “purist” in almost any way. As long as your story works with itself, I’m pretty cool with it.

    • Xenia says:

      I disagree with your second sentence. I don’t agree that you always have to change things to translate a book to films. You may have to leave out some of the scenes, especially if the book is long and detailed, but change things? That, to me, is a horse of a whole different color. Many long and detailed books have been successfully translated to film without bastardizing the book. Gone With The Wind for One, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Roots by Alex Haley, Kramer VS Kramer by Avery Corman, just to name a few. These are all books that are quite detailed and were translated well to film according to what the authors wrote. Someone on another site mentioned To Kill A Mockingbird being the best film adaptation of a book that she has ever seen. I am well aware that writing books is a totally different medium from film-making, but any book can be properly translated to film by a talented screenwriter and director working together.

      I just feel that many film-makers in Hollywood today are so arrogant that they think they can improve on a best selling book.

      Thank you for your thoughts as always Hamlette! I am off now to watch the 1975 version of North and South. 🙂

      • Hamlette says:

        They changed a lot of things in GWTW too — like the fact that Scarlett had a son from one of her earlier marriages.

        What about when an author adapts his/her own book for a movie? Like William Goldman, who did the screenplay for “The Princess Bride” from his own book. He changed a whole lot of things, from the actual ending to cutting out a bunch of exciting scenes to making Buttercup a whole lot more likeable in the movie.

        Sometimes a book can be improved on. Sometimes a movie can be improved on. Maybe it’s because I watch so many versions of “Hamlet” and see how each brings its own interpretation to the story and characters, and how each one has merit, but I actually think any author who says, “Thou shalt not change my story!” has an awful lot of hubris.

        Anyway, can’t wait to hear how the 1975 N&S is! I love me some Patrick Stewart, so I’d like to see that version if I can get my paws on it some time.

        • Xenia says:

          I was not talking about things like whether or not Scarlett had a son or daughter with whomever. I am referring to key elements that actually changes the message of the entire story to where it no longer bares any resemblance to the book. If the author wants to do that it is his/her work to do so. He or she wrote it. Sometimes studio can put pressure on authors to alter their work, but I would not do it. Tyler Perry writes his own stuff because Hollywood always wanted him to change major elements that would alter his stories. Therefore, Mr. Perry decided to produce his own movies so that he can always have 100% control of HIS WORK. If you write it, it is your story and I have no problem with you having an awful lot of hubris about it. Thou shalt not change my story? If I wrote it, you’re darned right I don’t want anyone changing it, at least not the key elements. When Ayn Rand was alive she wouldn’t let anyone make Atlas Shrugged into a movie unless they would agree that she would have some creative control because of what Hollywood did to her book, The Fountainhead. It was a good movie, but the point of what she was trying to get across was changed. She was upset about it and as a writer myself I can understand that. I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree and that is okay.

          I really hope you get to see Patrick Stewart in N&S. He is very good in it.

Leave a Reply