Over the years I’ve seen many of my favourite books made into film, sometimes well, sometimes not so well. About 5 years ago I mentioned a couple, and I intended to follow up with a description of some of them.
Since then, we’ve seen HBO in particular changing the game by getting excellent scriptwriters to convert series like Dexter, Southern Vampire Mysteries (True Blood) and Game of Thrones, as well as supporting the big budgets needed to fulfil the stories. Longer story arcs have become familiar to the viewer, so that longer novels or series of books do not necessarily need to be reduced to a movie format.
Here’s a few of my favourites that I’m still waiting for. There’s a few pie-in-the-sky ideas for potential actors or directors, but perhaps you’ve read them and have your own thoughts? Alternatively if you fancy something different, these are widely available, either on e-book or cheaply through Amazon.
Jill Paton Walsh – Knowledge of Angels
The story follows a shipwrecked mariner from a secular city who lands on a mediterrean island during the time of the Catholic Inquisition. His arrival challenges the religious order, who are bound by law to execute him if he will not recant his secular ways. The Mariners’ convincing rebutals, intelligence and good nature cause great troubles among the theologians. The situation is complicated by the discovery of a feral child, who the authorities try to use to prove the existence of God, the knowledge of angels.
This would be relatively cheap to film somewhere in the Adriatic, perhaps, would look lavish and has Oscar potential from a number of diverse characters.
It’s the kind of thing that would be perfect for Peter Weir, though perhaps Neil Jordan? Adrien Brody, Ron Perlman, Ben Kingsley would be perfect in various roles.
Jill Paton Walsh – A School for Lovers
On the back of the previous book, I checked out this romantic comedy, based on Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. Lighthearted, yet far more intelligent and satisfying than so many of the tired romcoms that we see year in, year out.
Once again, relatively cheap to make, meaning you could easily attract some big stars. I could probably see Stanley Tucci as the “Puck” character, perhaps directing it as well? The other 4 (yes, you only need 5 main actors) could be anyone really, just have to be well matched.
Julian May – Saga of Pliocene Exile
Like many others, I was disappointed with last year’s Terra Nova, which shares a similar scenario, i.e. people are sent back to prehistoric ages from the future through a one-way time portal. But here, the ancient and future worlds are well thought out and described, and the “metapsychic” abilities have their own natural logic.
But it’s not just the fantasy and sci-fi, there are themes of deception and politics, of human resourcefulness, but also the psychological and sociological impact of being part of a globally connected community, or of being exiled or otherwise excluded from that.
With exotic aliens, castles, fearsome beasties, big battles and touching romance, it could be a great follow-on to Game of Thrones. It’d probably need a similar budget and probably a similar sized cast!
May wrote four more books that explored the development of metapsychic abilities in humans, and their eventual admission into a space-faring community of aliens. These allowed the story to come full circle but give the potential to extend the series or even shoot them as movies in their own right.
Maria Doria Russell – The Sparrow
When beautiful singing is heard from a distance planet, a small mission is sent out to make contact and explore (as you do). However when the sole survivor returns, it’s clear that some horror has occurred, and the book follows his interrogation in parallel with flashbacks to the coming together of the team and the mission itself. Like Knowledge of Angels, there are important spiritual and philosophical themes here which add weight to the sci-fi.
Out of this list, The Sparrow has come closest to seeing the screen, with 3 screenplays since it was first published in 1996, and Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas attached at different points. The author writes here of her dilemma, which due to the nature of the story (not to mention the final reveal!) is more of a problem than for the other books in this list:
There’s a big market for science fiction action movies, but despite the success of films like “Moon”and “Inception,” there’s no market for science fiction drama. As one insider told me, “Not even George Clooney could get anybody to go see ‘Solaris.’”
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life apologizing to people who would feel betrayed by a screen adaptation that didn’t face up to the central issues of the story.
Russell may eventually get her way as another of her novels, “Doc” is being made into an HBO series.
Which of your favourite books are you aching to see, and who do you see being involved?