I guess that outside of two of these novels I’ve picked, this could probably be called “Novels I Want to See Adapted Again” or better yet, “Right.” So yeah, needless to say, some of these have been adapted for the big screen already, but if I’ve included them, I thought all of the adaptations beforehand were either just poorly made films or terrible as adaptations of their source material. In a way, I’m a little hesitant suggesting these at all, because depending on my mood, I sometimes think that some novels are better left as novels (i.e. my Stephen King suggestion below), but other times I just can’t help it and find myself imagining these done right as films and who I’d want taking on the roles and being in charge of ‘em. Of course, feel free in the comments to discuss my choices as well as talk about which novels or stories you’d love to see adapted right.
by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is not only the hottest writer in literature right now with his Pulitzer Prize winning (and Oprah approved) The Road, but after the Coen brothers adaptation of his novel No Country for Old Men (which many critics are agreeing is the best film of the year), I’d say it’s not going to be long before studios start spitting out adaptations of his work left and right. The Road is already very close to becoming a reality with Guy Pearce in negotiations to star and the rights to Blood Meridian have already been picked up by a studio (with rumors that Ridley Scott is on board to direct, but those are still simply that: rumors). It would definitely be a tough adaptation, because the morbid novel heavily relies on some pretty disturbing violence. It follows the story of a young kid (appropriately referred to only as “the kid”) in the mid-19th century near the Texas-Mexico border who joins up with a group of ruthless, bloodthirsty bounty hunters that are on a mission to collect as many Indian scalps as they can. Women, children, babies – they’re all fair game here and it makes for some disturbing, unforgettable atrocities. If you thought Anton Chigurh was a memorable villain in No Country for Old Men, just wait until you meet the highly intelligent, towering Judge Holden. He’ll be in your nightmares of weeks.
Captain for Castile
by Samuel Shellabarger
It seems to be a relatively unknown book nowadays. I’m yet to run into anyone that has heard of it, let alone read it, besides me (which I only came across it by accident), although in it’s time is was popular enough to be poorly adapted into a Tyrone Power swashbuckler). The novel is a historical fictional account of Hernán Cortés’s conquest of Mexico in the early 16th century, through the eyes of a young, ambitious Spanish nobleman named Pedro de Vargas. It’s a complex, but fast paced swashbuckling adventure full of romance, politics, and betrayals, not so dissimilar to Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers. The Tyrone Power version leaves out the majority of the story, more or less changing the entire thing, but the novel is fast paced enough that most all of the storylines could stay in and the film could easily clock in effectively at two and a half hours. Get a young, relative unknown actor out of Spain to play Pedro and snag Javier Bardem for the part of Cortés and this could turn out to be a monster historical epic (and well-made historical epics are something I can never get enough of).
by Stephen King
This one I’m not so sure about, even though I’m including it on this list. My theory is that this could be made as a standalone film, as this first novel in the series works well as a standalone story. If they tried to adapt the entire seven novels in the series, that’s when I’d have to put my hand up and say “I cry your pardon, but no thankee, sai,” because I’m not convinced that it could be done right, not in anyone’s hands. And some things are better left alone anyway. I think a standalone film of The Gunslinger, maybe adding a little bit to make it feel like a complete story but still leaving the whole story and Roland’s background vague, could turn out fantastic (John Hillcoat to direct anyone?). Frank Darabont has expressed his interest in adapting the series as recently as this year and even talked to Stephen King about it, but then went on to say that “I’ve told him the thought of adapting that saga makes me break out in a cold sweat, curl into a ball, and weep. It’s just so metaphysical and trippy, so much of it almost impossible stuff to visualize on screen. Not to mention it’s just staggeringly huge and massive!” Then later this year, King confirmed that he optioned the rights to JJ Abrams (for a staggering $19!) so he and his team could try and develop something to see if it works out. So… we’ll have to wait and I have a feeling they’re going to tackle all seven of the novels instead of just one. Am I the only one who thinks JJ Abrams is definitely not the right man for this though? And that they better not make this into a TV miniseries?
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is such a work of delicate brilliance, every word intentionally placed and thought out, every moment meaningful and symbolic, it’s no wonder that directors have had such a hard time adapting it in the past. It’s just such a mesmerizing, human story though (not to mention, easily one of my favorite novels ever), and I’d just love to see it done appropriately. There are an abundance of actors I could see in the roles of Jay Gatsby: Robert Downey Jr., Eric Bana, and Edward Norton come to mind. Same can be said for Nick Carraway: Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling. And Daisy Buchanan? Why not Kate Winslet or Naomi Watts? Find a director like Frank Darabont who is a stickler for detail and symbolism and can pull a good 1-2 emotional punch, and the studios could definitely have themselves a huge, Oscar-worthy winner.
East of Eden
by John Steinbeck
This is the novel that actually inspired me to make this list in the first place. Elia Kazan’s popular James Dean starring movie is just an abominable adaptation in every sense of the word. I understand the novel is huge, covers a long period of time, and has a lot of characters… but if you’ve ever read the book, I’m sure you’re in agreement leaving out the Trask family’s Cantonese servant Lee in Kazan’s adaptation helped destroy the entire message of Steinbeck’s story. He’s one of the most important characters in the last part of the story (the part which the Kazan movie is based on) and they leave the character out completely. Obviously, some of it would have to be cut out due to the novel’s length (and even then, it’d undoubtedly have to be nearly a three-hour film to be done effectively), but the central story of the Trasks from Adam to his brother to Cathy to their sons all needs to be there – and Lee (as well as freaking “timshel”) absolutely cannot be left out! A few years ago, it was announced that Ron Howard was on board to direct an adaptation, but nothing came of that and he’s no longer attached, leaving the project back at square one. Now, I have no clue who I would ever want to take on such an ambitious project, but I always thought Tim Robbins could capture the timid, meek Adam Trask (although he’s getting up there in years, so they better get moving!) and Liam Neeson could do well with the role of Samuel Hamilton. Cal (who was played by Dean in Kazan’s version) and Aron Trask as well as Abra are obviously important casting decisions as well (especially Cal, who I think is the most essential character to nail). I used to say Ryan Gosling would make a great Cal after seeing him in The Believer, but he’s definitely too old now. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is getting up there in age too, but he’s still got a young face, and could definitely pull off the complexity of the character – although he’s never been in a period piece like this before. I’m always a fan of taking risks on relative unknowns though.