From missing characters and bad casting to major plot changes, we’re all too familiar with films and TV series that fail to live up to the books that they’re based on. It’s unfortunate, because not only do they change the real stories, but also, they completely miss the point of the books.
As upsetting as this is for readers, we imagine that it doesn’t compare to the disappointment authors feel when they see such poor and inaccurate portrayals of their work. Most of them had very little or no creative control during the filming process, and so as a result, they were forced to accept adaptations that were nowhere near what they envisioned. Yes, some of these projects did end up becoming major successes. But it doesn’t change the fact that so many directors and producers completely ignored or disregarded the writers’ wishes. It’s why we don’t blame them at all for voicing their opinions on why they hated their book’s adaptations so much.
17. E.B. White/Charlotte’s Web
It may be a beloved children’s classic, but the original author, E.B. White, specifically asked that his book not be turned into a movie-musical. However, his request got denied and the producers went on to create a musical with E.B.’s work.
He said: “The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don’t care much for jolly songs. The Blue Hill Fair, which I tried to report faithfully in the book, has become a Disney World, with 76 trombones. But that’s what you get for getting embroiled in Hollywood.”
16. Stephen King/The Shining
This author was not at all impressed the changes that were made for the adaptation, even if it was a mass-success that still pulls in audiences to this day. And he was especially upset about the fact that Jack Nicholson portrayed Jack Torrance so differently from the original character.
Stephen said: “I’d admired [the director] Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. … Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: because he couldn’t believe, he couldn’t make the film believable to others.”
15. P.L. Travers/Mary Poppins
The movie was extremely successful and it won over five Oscars, but when P.L. Travers went to see the film, she spent most of the time crying out of frustration. From the start, she wasn’t a fan of Disney’s script. So they tried to persuade her to sign off on it by impressing her with screenings and private tours of Disneyland. But still, she didn’t budge.
Disney eventually gave up trying to win her over and continued with the production, knowing full well that P.L. Travers didn’t like what they came up with. She even sent lengthy memos and continued to criticize their work, but everything she had to say was ignored. To make matters even worse, she absolutely hated the music and she didn’t like the main cast. She felt that Julie Andrews was too attractive and likeable. And rather than Dick Van Dyke, she preferred Laurence Olivier for the role of Mr. Dawes Senior. The experience was so bad that she refused to work with Disney ever again. Saving Mr. Banks was a film about P.L.’s relationship with Disney during the making of Mary Poppins, though they took several liberties with how amicable things were left between the two.
14. Winston Groom/Forrest Gump
Though the film was a huge hit, Winston was not happy with the adaptation. He hated that Hollywood dialed down on the explicit language and sex scenes, and he didn’t like the ending. So when he wrote the film’s sequel, he started it with a cryptic message: “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story… Whether they get it right or wrong, it don’t matter.”
What’s even worse is that when the movie won over six Academy Awards, no one bothered to mention his name in their acceptance speeches. Ouch.
13. Anthony Burgess/Clockwork Orange
Anthony hated the movie so much that he regretted writing the book that inspired it. He claimed that the film’s director, Stanley Kubrick, totally missed the message of his novel. Rather than portraying a story that focused on themes like redemption and the importance of free will, Stanely made a film that essentially glorified violence.
Anthony said: “The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”
12. Michael Ende/The Neverending Story
Michael wrote the screenplay that he wanted for the adaptation, but then the entire thing got rewritten by another writer. Upon reading it, the original author thought the new script was so bad that he tried to buy back the film rights, but he was unsuccessful. Realizing that the producers would stick with what they had, he requested that his name be removed from the project entirely. In short, he felt that the filmmakers were more concerned about making money, rather than trying to truly understand his book.
He said: “I saw the final script five days before the premiere and only as a result of a judicial verdict in Munich. I was horrified. They had changed the whole sense of the story. Fantastica reappears with no creative force from Bastian. For me, this was the essence of the book.”
11. Bret Easton Ellis/American Psycho
Bret never thought that his novel, which focuses on a complex character who leads a double life, could work as a film. The adaptation did very little to change his mind, because he felt that the ambiguity of the story didn’t translate well on screen.
He said: “I don’t know if it really works as a film. It’s trying to take something that’s not answerable and answering it in a medium that demands answers, which is film. By the very nature of the medium, it demands that you make choices. Where a novel can be unresolved, an unreliable narrator, it doesn’t matter. I think [the director] … was trying to have it both ways and kind of left it with an odd sense of displacement that wasn’t particularly satisfying.”
10. Roald Dahl/Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Roald was so disappointed with this film that he refused to let producers work on a second (which is why we never got to see the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator). He described it as “crummy” and he felt that the director had “no talent or flair.” He also didn’t like Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka because he found him too upbeat and pretentious for the role. The author preferred the comedian Spike Milligan for the titular part. And to add insult to injury, the film paid much more attention to Willy Wonka, rather than the true main character of the story: Charlie.
9. Richard Matheson/I Am Legend
There are actually multiple adaptations of Richard’s book, and he didn’t like any of them. The first, which was called The Last Man on Earth, didn’t sit well with him because of bad casting. He said: “I was disappointed in The Last Man on Earth, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor.”
The second one, called The Omega Man, was also a bust because he felt that the entire film was so separate from his book, they were essentially different entities. But then when I Am Legend got made, the ending was changed in a MAJOR way… and judging by Richard’s response, it sounded like he’d just about had enough. He said: “I don’t know why Hollywood is fascinated by my book when they never care to film it as I wrote it.”
8. Clive Cussler/Sahara
Well.. More like Clive *loathed* the movie simply because the producer failed to live up to his promise to give Clive full script control, as they’d initially agreed upon. A lot of things were changed and, as a result, Clive constantly criticized the film before its release.
The movie totally flopped at the box office, making only $68 million with a budget of over $145 million. Clive sued Crusader Entertainment for not letting him maintain creative control and he lost. He said: “They deceived me right from the beginning. They kept lying to me… and I just got fed up with it.”
7. Alan Moore/Watchmen
In fact, Alan didn’t like most of his book adaptations, including From Hell, V for Vendetta, Constantine, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He was quite vocal about his work getting turned into mainstream blockbuster films. And as a result, he asked that his name be removed from every adaptation.
Regarding Watchmen, Alan said: “I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying. It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I, for one, am sick of worms. Can’t we get something else?”
6. JD Salinger/My Foolish Heart
And we don’t blame him, considering the fact that the writers turned his sad short story, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, into a cute romance with a happy ending. It did well at the box office, but JD Salinger got so upset that he refused to sell the rights to any of his other stories.
When he was approached by filmmakers about movie rights to his famous Catcher in the Rye, he simply replied “No, no, no. I had a bad experience in Hollywood once.” We’ve got the brains behind My Foolish Heart to blame!
5. Ken Kesey/One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
It went on the win multiple Academy Awards, but if it were up to Ken, the movie wouldn’t have a single one. He initially planned to be a part of the production process but, because of creative distances, he stopped only two weeks in. He didn’t like that the writers removed Chief Bromden’s point of view, and he was so disappointed that he refused to even see the movie. Ken said: “I wanted to do The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and they wanted to do Hogan’s Heroes.”
4. Ursula LeGuin/Earthsea
Ursula was so upset about this adaptation that she published an essay denouncing it. Not only did her story get changed immensely, but the characters were completely white-washed. Sadly, Ursula could do nothing the change this because she was never included in the production process.
In her post, Ursula explained: “They then sent me several versions of the script—and told me that shooting had already begun. I had been cut out of the process. And just as quickly, race, which had been a crucial element, had been cut out of my stories. In the miniseries, zDanny Glover is the only man of color among the main characters… A far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned. When I looked over the script, I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.”
3. Ernest Hemingway/A Farewell To Arms
Though he did enjoy Gary Cooper’s performance, Hemingway didn’t like the fact that so much emphasis was placed on romance. In fact, he was so disappointed with the end result that he tried to prevent the film from being released in his hometown of Piggott, Arkansas. That didn’t quite work out… And even despite his criticisms, the film did quite well and went on to win two Academy Awards.
2. Anne Rice/Queen of the Damned
…And neither did anyone else, apparently. The film tanked at the box office and critics were not impressed. Anne once shared that the film’s failure was mainly due to the fact that it deviated from the true story too much and disappointed the book’s fanbase.
She said: “I think everybody knows pretty much that Queen of the Damned killed the franchise in Hollywood, that it was not well received and its big mistake was that it did not respect the fanbase. It was not based on the books. It was a fiction created by the studio using the names, and there just is no market for that in today’s world.”
1. Truman Capote/Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Most fans would say that Audrey Hepburn was simply stunning in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but Truman didn’t agree. He really wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly, and rather than casting George Peppard as Paul, Truman wanted to play the male lead himself (although to be fair… he had no previous acting experience, so perhaps that was a good call).
Truman said: “Marilyn would have been absolutely marvelous in it. She wanted to play it too, to the extent that she worked up two whole scenes all by herself and did them for me. She was terrifically good, but Paramount double-crossed me and cast Audrey. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favorite people, but she was just wrong for the part.”