Today: May 23, 2024

From Book To Screen Controversy

There aren’t many who can hear the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ without feeling the urge to break out into song and dance. It starts with a twitch of the lips, extending into a smile. Before you know it you’re two verses in and you just can’t stop your arms from flaying in the air with a childish excitement. It’s hard then to imagine that the author and creator of such a wondrous world could have despised the movie that has been cherished by generation after generation, but believe it we must. This week’s release of Saving Mr. Banks delves into the arduous relationship between movie tycoon Walt Disney and Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers. As Saving Mr. Banks will reveal, it took 20 years of negotiating before Travers finally consented to the making of the film. However it would take a lot more than a ‘spoon full of sugar’ to help the author glug down the bitter pill of resentment she felt over the ‘disgraceful’ adaptation of her beloved Mary Poppins. Her offence was so rife that she refused to allow Walt to work his Disney magic on any of the other sequels, though he pursued them. Travers is not the only author to have detested the movie version of her work. Here are a few others who found the film versions of their novels a bitter pill to swallow.

Clive Cussler
There may not have been 20 years worth of trouble and strife over the film Sahara but the tension the adaptation caused appeared to be just as strong as the one between Travers and Walt. Legal wars were waged over the film’s making when author Clive Cussler attempted to prevent production of the movie from going ahead. Despite having full script approval Cussler was appalled by the results. According to the aggrieved author the production team had refused to make amendments based on his suggestions. In an interview to The Telegraph, Cussler appeared livid stating that he couldn’t “approve” what Hollywood were doing and that his instructions were to go back and follow the book.

Roald Dahl
While Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory may have hit the spot for many sweet-toothed viewers, the film adaptation left rather a sour taste in the mouth of its author Roald Dahl. Changes were made and new material was included that left poor Mr. Dahl feeling disgruntled. He was reportedly unimpressed by the ‘fizzy lifting drinks’ scene in which Charlie and his Grandpa experience a small brush with death after sneakily downing one of Wonka’s fizzy drinks. That, along with many other deviations from the novel’s narrative left the famous children’s author un-enthralled. To make matters worse Roald Dahl was also infuriated by the casting of Gene Wilder over Spike Milligan whom he much preferred for the role of the dazzling confectioner. Would Johnny Depp have satisfied Dahl’s craving for authenticity…? All in all the movie, which according to Roald Dahl placed too much emphasis on Wonka and not enough on Charlie, was harder for the author to stomach than a mouthful of Willy Wonka’s Shockers.

JD Salinger
When it comes to JD Salinger’s Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut more than just the title was lost in the page to screen transition.  Slammed by critics as a “soggy love story” (Christopher Durang) and a narrative “full of soap-opera clichés” (The New Yorker) My Foolish Heart was far from the “good movie” Salinger and his agent hoped for it. So affronted was he by the ‘butchering’ of his novel, Mr. Salinger point blank refused to have anymore films made of his later works such as Franny And Zooey and the timeless classic Catcher In The Rye.

Anne Rice
Queen Of The Damned had no hope whatsoever of winning over its author Anne Rice. If fact she admitted to begging producers not to go ahead with its production. Evidently her pleas went unheard and the late singer/actress Aaliyah was cast alongside Stuart Townsend as the lead roles. Original material was replaced and the story re-shaped so much that Rice felt it was no longer based on her work. So awful was the film for Rice that she even went as far as to say on Facebook: “I try to blot it out of my mind.”  A great disappointment to many of her fans, Rice suggested that the best thing to do was to “forget the film.”

Stephen King
You would be forgiven for thinking that the product of a collaboration between the exceptional author Stephen King and the equally brilliant filmmaker Stanley Kubrick would be flawless. Two great minds who – independently – had crafted such classics as The Killing and Carrie were surely destined for greatness, working together? Sadly this was not the case, at least not for King who hated the adaptation of his novel The Shining. Much like Dahl, Stephen King also had issues with the casting. King believed that Jack Nicholson’s association with the character of Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, gave too much of a hint to audiences as Jack Torrance’s eventual frame of mind in The Shining. King was also unsettled by the downplaying of the supernatural elements of the story, referring to it as the film’s ‘basic flaw’. The author stated that because “he [Kubrick] couldn’t believe, he couldn’t make the film believable to others.”

Whether or not Saving Mr. Banks will share some of the success of the very film it spawned is yet to be decided. The casting of the exceptional Tom Hanks and the dashing Emma Thompson suggest that it will be nothing short of magic. However, let’s just hope the movie doesn’t deviate too far from what really happened lest we have one furious PL Travers turning in her grave.

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