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From Page to Screen

Which is better? The movie or the book? For many, the answer is easy.

"If I love a book that I read before I see the movie, more often than not, I hate the movie," says Vanessa Tamayo, development assistant at a Los Angeles-based production company currently adapting several books for film.

"After watching it, I will obsessively dissect what was different and curse the producers, directors or writers for their careless butchering of the literary masterpiece."

But a lot of good movies come from books. And Tamayo thinks it's worth the chance.

"Care and time must be taken with such things. You have to find producers and writers that respect the material, but are not so reverential toward it that they are afraid to take steps to change the story to make it work on screen."

Many producers have taken that care. The Internet Movie Database lists 6,612 titles of films "based-on-novel." For a list of The Guardianís picks for the 50 Best Film Adaptations, check out our BookSpot list.

Books may be adapted in many ways; the novelís author may help write the screenplay, the screenwriter may try to remain loyal to the novel, or the screenwriter may rely solely on his or her interpretation of the novel to create the screenplay.

One movie that illustrates the frustration involved in the screenwriting process is 2002ís Adaptation, starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. The film is itself an adaptation of Susan Orleanís book The Orchid Thief, but screenwriter Charlie Kaufman took an unusual approach. He wrote himself as a character in the movie, agonizing over how to do justice to Orleanís book. Ultimately, the movie shows the relationship between writing and living.

Current films with roots on a bookshelf include The Black Dahlia and The Devil Wears Prada. The halls of movie history are filled with legends that started as books Ė Gone With the Wind, The French Connection, The Godfather, and Forrest Gump to name a few ó not to mention several novels written by Jane Austen. Whether itís a favorite book or favorite film, itís fun to see how the work moved from page to screen.

Gone With the Wind

One of the most famous adaptations from a novel is Margaret Mitchellís Gone With the Wind. Learn the story of itís journey to the silver screen at the Internet Movie Database, where you will find a cast list and memorable quotes, in addition to fun trivia about the novel and film (did you know that in the early drafts Scarlett was named Pansy OíHara?). Take a virtual tour of Tara, review the history and order the book at the official NewLine site or hear cast interviews when you order the DVD from Warner Bros.

The French Connection

Classic cop thriller The French Connection began as a novel by Robin Moore. Fortune City provides details on how it was adapted. Peruse the cast list, find links to related books and order the film on VHS or DVD at Rave Central. The book is currently out of print, but you can order it from Alibris or through another old book seller.

The Godfather

You cannot discuss adaptations without bringing up The Godfather. Again, the Internet Movie Database is a great place to start learning trivia and reading memorable quotes from the movie. Youíll find full transcripts of both Part I and Part II, as well as over 100 pages of information at The Godfather Trilogy: A Website You Canít Refuse.

Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma ó Jane Austen has long been a popular novelist for adaptation. Find a complete list of her films and teleplays at the Internet Movie Database.

Read the Screenplay

You probably own copies of many of your favorite books. How would you like to get your hands on a screenplay and do your own detailed comparisons? There are several sources where you can access complete scripts. Try Drew's Script-O-Rama or iScriptdb.

   --- J.W.W. and O. Ware


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