Movie adaptations of books are, for the most part, hits or misses. After all, there is a certain difficulty in summarising a 500-page book into a two-hour movie. Nevertheless, movie adaptations of books are popular because a) producers can capitalise on the existing fandom of the book and b) they don’t have to create a whole story from scratch. But, as it turns out, the authors of some of the most iconic book-turned-movies to hit our screens are actually really, really, unhappy (read: despised) with the final product. These include…
1. Roald Dahl: ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (IMDb: 7.8/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 90%)
The Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) / The Movie: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Tea: Despite being credited as the screenwriter for the 1971 movie, Roald Dahl was… well… dissatisfied with the end product of the movie. Not only has Dahl publicly disowned the film he dismissed director Mel Stuart as being someone with “no talent or flair whatsoever.” He also went on to say some pretty critical things about Gene Wilder’s performance as Willy Wonka and lamented the film’s choice to place emphasis on the character of Wonka over Charlie. After all, the book is titled ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.
I wonder what he’d say about the upcoming prequel to the story, ‘Wonka’ and the potential casting of Tom Holland / Timothée Chalamet for the titular role.
2. Rick Riordan: ‘Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief’ (IMDb: 5.9/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 49%)
The Books: Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (five books, published between 2005 and 2009) / The Movies: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) & Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
The Tea: To say that Rick Riordan is disappointed is with the movies is an understatement. Heck, if you’ve read the books and went to see the movie as a fan, you’d be disappointed to! But unlike us fans, Riordan didn’t actually go to see the movies. In fact, just by reading the script alone, Riordan decided that the film adaptations of his work were going to be bad, even going as far as to say:
“They should censor the entire thing. Just two hours of blank screen. It’s my life’s work going through a meat grinder when I pleaded with them not to do it.”
Unlike Dahl, however, Riordan doesn’t have any qualms about the casting (neither do us fans, really) but takes issue with the direction of the movie. In 2018, Riordan released the letters he wrote to the filmmakers during development, laying out his concerns and disappointments, such as the decision to make the characters older than they were in the book (a decision he says “kills any possibility of a movie franchise”) and just… straight-up bad writing (“the script as a whole is terrible”).
Thankfully, Riordan has teamed up with Disney+ to create a series based on his books that’ll – hopefully – breathe new life into the much-loved world of Percy Jackson
3. Richard Matheson – ‘I Am Legend’ (IMDb: 7.2/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 68%)
The Book: I Am Legend (1954) / The Movies: The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007)
The Tea: Richard Matheson did not agree with every. single. adaptation. of his novel because they were all nothing like this novel – kinda sad, really, as it was made into three different movies. Before the 2007 version starring Will Smith, there was 1967’s ‘The Last Man on Earth’ starring Vincent Price. Matheson didn’t like Prince as the lead in the film and didn’t agree with the direction of the movie. With 1971’s ‘The Omega Man’ starring Charlton Heston, Matheson said that the movie “was so removed from [his book that it didn’t even bother [him].” But the real tea was that, after the 2007 version that we all know of, Matheson was quoted as saying:
“I don’t know why Hollywood is fascinated by my book when they never care to film it as I wrote it.”
This is because the 2007 version had to be rewritten, with the ending completely different from Matheson’s original ending, following reviews from test audiences.
4. Truman Capote – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (IMDb: 7.6/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 89%)
The Book: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) / The Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
The Tea: As one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time, you’d think that author Truman Capote would be content, at least, with the movie based on his book. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Most notably so, because he was not happy with the casting of Audrey Hepburn. While the move is considered to be one of her most memorable and identifiable roles, Capote wanted the role to go to someone else: Marilyn Monroe. The role of ‘Holly Golightly’ may have suited the extroverted Monroe more than introverted Hepburn, and that’s what Capote went on to say for the rest of this life. As biographer Gerald Clarke explained, “Holly was Capote’s favourite creation,” and thus, “spent the rest of his life trashing” labelling the adaptation “the most miscast” film.
5. Stephen King – ‘The Shining’ (IMDb: 8.4/10; Rotten Tomatoes: 84%)
The Book: The Shining (1977) / The Movie: The Shining (1980)
The Tea: Another cult classic, ‘The Shining’ starring Jack Nicholson, has failed to meet the expectations of its original creator. Unlike Dahl – who infamously rarely approves of movie adaptations of his books – Stephen King often encourages the adaptations of his works; he’s got a longstanding policy of offering film students the chance to adapt any of his works, not under contract, for USD$1. And while he’s publically praised ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Shining’ failed to earn such praise. Instead, King has deemed the 1980 film a “poor adaptation”. Speaking to the BBC, he criticised Shelley Duvall’s performance as ‘Wendy Torrance’, one of the three main characters in ‘The Shining’.
“She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”
He also thought that the character development of protagonist ‘Jack Torrace’ was sorely lacking.
*Cover image credits: 'Charlie' - Penguin Random House Children's UK / Puffin 'Breakfast' - Vintage International 'I Am Legend' - Gold Medal Books