What does it feel like when your book becomes a film?

Oscar Wilde once wrote that ‘A poet can survive everything but a misprint.’

It’s a worthy place to start when considering the translation of a book into a film. For the author of a book, making the leap to the big screen, letting go of your work to the hands of another is an extraordinary exercise in faith.

With that in mind, here’s what three authors of books with upcoming films had to say when I asked them about the experience…

Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu

The film of Basu’s biography comes from director Stephen Frears, with a screenplay by Lee Hall.

It was fascinating seeing Lee Hall adapt the book for screen. I saw it going through the various draft stages and every time it was getting better. He has captured both the humour and the sadness. Going on set and seeing the cast in their costumes was amazing. Abdul Karim and Mohammed Buksh (the Queen’s Indian servants) looked like they had walked straight out of the photographs. Stephen is an amazing director. The film is shot beautifully. It transports you to another age. As for Judi Dench, she internalises the elderly Queen in a way that only she can. It’s a stellar performance.

Shrabani Basu

Out September 15 (UK)

Read our preview here…

The Chinaman by Stephen Leather

Re-titled as ‘The Foreigner’, Leather’s 1992 novel is brought to cinemas by producer Jackie Chan and director Martin Campbell. The script comes from David Marconi.

It has been a strange experience.

I actually had very little to do with the process of turning the book into a movie. The screenplay was written by a writer called David Marconi, who wrote the awesome Enemy Of The State starring Will Smith. David turned the book into a movie and did a terrific job. What’s great is that David has updated the book to the present day but has stayed true to the original story and characters.  At no point did he ask for my advice or input! I was sent a few drafts but only so I could see what was happening.

The producers pretty much ignored me, though David did take me to the set when he was in London. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast – I’ve been a fan of Jackie Chan’s since I was a journalist on the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong in the late Eighties. I wrote The Chinaman not long after seeing Pierce Brosnan play an IRA killer in the awesome Bob Hoskins movie The Long Good Friday and very much had him in mind for my IRA terrorist in my story, Sean Morrison. But as the years have gone by he has grown into the part of IRA Godfather Liam Hennessy and he’s terrific in the role. I met them both and they were lovely, so friendly and warm, as was the director,  Martin Campbell, Martin, who directed Casino Royale and GoldenEye, is one of my all-time favourite directors and I was over the moon when he agreed to direct. The action scenes in the movie are amazing and that’s down to him.

Very early on the producers decided that The Chinaman wasn’t a good title. They went for The Foreigner instead. I think that was a big mistake. The whole point of the original title is that the hero of the book – a Viet Cong killer who moves to the UK an becomes British – is always underestimated. People just assume he is Chinese and refer to him dismissively as The Chinaman. It is the perfect title. The Foreigner makes no sense because of course once he became a British citizen he was no longer a foreigner!  But the producers never asked my opinion so The Foreigner it is!

Stephen Leather

Out October 13 (USA)

Check out these exclusive on-set pictures of the writer with star Pierce Brosnan and screenwriter David Marconi…

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

James Franco stars in, directs and produces the film adaptation, with a script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.

Having my memoir “The Disaster Artist” adapted by James Franco and Seth Rogen was truly an incredible experience. They had a clear vision for the story and a passion to tell it. Scott Neudstder and Michael Weber did a masterful job with the screenplay rounded out by an all star cast. James Franco gave one of the best performances I’ve seen in the last ten years. He captured Tommy in a way I didn’t think was possible. I loved the film and can’t wait for audiences to experience it.

Greg Sestero

Out December 8 (USA)


5 thoughts on “What does it feel like when your book becomes a film?”

  1. So interesting hearing what it was like for these writers, especially for Stephen Lettermen and how he was largely ignored by the producers! I always think of Stephenie Meyer in these cases, and the (excessive?) control she had over her movie adaptions – which most writers wouldn’t get the chance to do if these guys are the norm. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love articles like these, so thanks. I especially like the passive aggressive critiques of Stephen Leather in regard to his adaptation. But he does make some valid points.

    I wonder if I’d had a book published whether I would just be glad to be paid for it to be made into a film. I guess it’s a win-win situation because if you don’t write the script then you kind of don’t get slated.

    But there are obviously stories of some novelists hating their adaptations. Famously, Stephen King doe NOT like Kubrick’s vision of ‘The Shining’. Go figure!


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