5 Books That Probably Won't Be Adapted into Movies
By Erik van Rheenen
From director Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge-ification of The Great Gatsby to the Joss Whedon-ing of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Hollywood has found no shortage of books to adapt to the big screen as of late. But not all authors are quick to hand over their movie rights to film producers. Here’s a look at five big-time books that won’t go Hollywood on us any time soon.
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude
Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez refuses to yield the rights to his best-selling novel, a book that journalist William Kennedy called “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” Though most of his novels (including Love in the Time of Cholera in 2007) got the big screen treatment, Marquez thinks Hollywood will botch his best-selling chronicle of seven generations of the same family: “They would cast someone like Robert Redford and most of us do not have relatives who look like Robert Redford.”
2. The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger got burned by Hollywood once—a 1949 flick called My Foolish Heart (based on the author’s short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut") got trounced by critics—and the thought of bringing Holden Caulfield to the big screen was “odious enough to keep me from selling the rights,” he said. Salinger’s biggest gripe was that his protagonist would be “essentially unactable. A Sensitive, Intelligent, Talented Young Actor in a Reversible Coat wouldn't nearly be enough."
In a scathing 1957 letter, Salinger vehemently ranted against a possible adaptation, stating: “Since there’s an ever-looming possibility that I won’t die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won’t have to see the results of the transaction.” The author, who died in 2010, got his wish.
3. The Silmarillion
Peter Jackson got his hands on pretty much everything Lord of The Rings related, spinning J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy saga into blockbuster epics. But Tolkien’s notoriously bulky collection of Middle Earth history isn’t likely to join its counterparts in theaters. That’s because Tolkien’s son, Christopher, who published The Silmarillion posthumously, is the author’s literary executor—the guy with full control over the literary copyrights.
Christopher Tolkien refuses to relinquish the rights, since he thinks a film wouldn’t be in the best interest of Middle Earth’s fandom and doesn’t think J.R.R. Tolkien would have wanted to see it get adapted. Until Christopher decides to sell the rights (it would be copyright infringement to adapt the book without them), fans will have to make do waiting for the next two Hobbit installments and probably nothing else.
4. Encyclopedia Brown
The boy detective himself probably couldn’t solve the case of why his long-lived series (first published in 1963, last published in 2012) hasn’t found itself a Hollywood franchise yet. The twist is that the author himself, Donald Sobol, foiled adaptation attempts at every turn until he died in 2012. Producer Howard Deutsch picked up the movie rights in 1979 for $25,000, but Sobol wouldn’t even recognize the producer. (On Deutsch: “Don't talk to me about that name. He's no hero.")
Sobol filed a lawsuit against Deutsch in 1983, demanding $20 million in defiance of the rights agreement and spoiling a 1980s adaptation that would have starred Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. Others who hoped to have a hand in adapting the series? Johnny Carson, Anthony Hopkins, Ridley Scott, and animation company Hanna Barbera.
[Update: We might have called this one too early.]
5. The Thrawn Trilogy
After the disappointing Star Wars prequels, fans hoped the sequels would return to official canon, since leaving Lucas to his own devices again would be like the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field: unlikely. Many fans hoped Episode 7 would adapt Timothy Zahn novel Heir to the Empire—the first of the “Thrawn trilogy,” a collection of novels post-Return of the Jedi—as a blockbuster.
But it turns out that the Star Wars brain trust has no plans for incorporating the widely accepted trilogy into the sequel scripts. A LucasFilm source told NBC News that “it’s an original story,” shooting down the rumor like a womp rat.
Primary image courtesy of Collider.