From print to picture: Film adaptations of books thrive in Hollywood

By Sarah Custen, Red Pulse Writer

Michael Crichton died Nov. 4 at age 66, leaving behind an impressive catalog of work. The famed author completed 25 fiction and five nonfiction books in his life.

Crichton might best be known, however, for the film adaptations of many of his fiction books. Maybe you’ve heard of “Jurassic Park,” “Congo,” or “Sphere”? In fact, 13 of Crichton’s books8212;that’s almost half!8212;are movies. And with Hollywood running on empty for new ideas, producers and filmmakers are all scouring the shelves to find the next big hit.

Many movies and television shows are based on books. Some are more obvious adaptations, but others might surprise you. Maybe you already knew that “Jurassic Park” was a book first, but what about “Forrest Gump”? It’s based on a novel by Winston Groom. Or that television show “Dexter” on Showtime? That’s from a book called Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay.

If you look at movies from this season, nearly all of them come from literary origins. There’s “Blindness,” a psychological thriller based on a book by José Saramago; “How To Lose Friends and Alienate People,” a comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Jeff Bridges, based on a book by Toby Young; and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” a cutesy teen flick with Michael Cera, based on the young adult novel by Rachel Cohn. Other books adapted to film include Cormac McCarthy’s classic post-apocalyptic novel The Road, and Sue Monk Kidd’s best-seller, The Secret Life of Bees.

“What I’m really surprised at is how many movies are based on books or graphic novels these days,” said Stephanie Goodliffe, a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. “I’d have a harder time coming up with current movies that are not based on books.”

Rachel Getts, who also works at the library and for Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, said she has noticed novels overtaking the screen as well. A self-proclaimed “cinemaniac,” Getts is excited for this movie season, when two of her passions come together.

“Many (people) in Hollywood believe that movie adaptations of classic books are prime award bait. So they throw them all up in the screen in the last two to three months of the year,” she said.

It’s a catch-22, though, Getts said.

“I think there is always a part of us that wants to see our favorite moments/characters/stories brought to life in front of us,” she said. “I also think there are books that I never want to see adapted, such as Catcher in the Rye, On the Road and The Crying of Lot 49. Stay away, Hollywood! Stay away!”

But how do you know if the adaptation is any good? Getts describes it like this: Many people feel that the book is always better than the movie, but that can’t possibly be true. She used as an example “Forrest Gump”. Some people want the movie to be an exact replica of the book, but Getts points out that it’s simply not possible, since a book is words and a movie is made up of pictures. Still others worry that a movie will take something away from the book, or overtake it completely. But Getts said she is more excited to take in what the big screen has to offer than she is worried about her books being ruined.

“One of my favorite stories comes from Dashiell Hammett,” she said. “He and a friend were sitting and talking. His friend asked Hammett whether he was afraid that Hollywood would take away his story and change it into something different. Hammett said that as long as the book is on the shelf, no one can take it away.”

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