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10 Authors Who Hated Their Books' Movie Adaptations

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | January 27, 2015 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | January 27, 2015 |

Authors. Directors. Two enter. One leaves. FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT.

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Stephen King, The Shining

Let’s start with the most famous. Stephen Kings’ hateboner for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining knows no bounds. The crux of his hatred comes from what Kubrick (who, with Diane Johnson, co-wrote the screenplay) did to his main characters, making Jack Torrance a crazy ball of crazy (in the book he was a more sympathetic character who started out as a decent guy struggling with alcoholism) and turning his wife Wendy into “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film. She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid. And that’s not the woman I wrote about,” says King.

After feeling like his book was mishandled once, the author took a more hands-on approach with a 1997 miniseries starring Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay, which no one has yet made a questionably dumb as shit documentary about.

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Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Jesus, Stanley Kubrick, stop fucking up. Burgess’ main issue with A Clockwork Orange is how it turned rapist and murderer Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his fellow Droogs into pop culture icons, which is even more fucked up when you consider Burgess was in part inspired to write A Clockwork Orange by the time his first wife was beaten by GIs and subsequently miscarried. The popularity of A Clockwork Orange, book and movie, caused Burgess to wish he’d never written the former, which he says he “knocked off for money in three weeks.” “It became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence,” he explains. “The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”

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Lothar-Gunther Buchheim, Das Boot (this is the right gif, ja?)
Another director who pops up on the shit lists of multiple writers is Wolfgang Petersen, whose Das Boot was panned by its original novelist Lothar-Gunther Buchheim for inaccuracies that (he says) made it a “cheap, shallow American action flick” and a “contemporary German propaganda newsreel from World War II” and that (literally everyone else in the world says) made it an actual interesting movie instead of a boring as shit documentary about submarines. Buchheim originally turned in his own six-hour draft, but unsurprisingly, Petersen gave nary a care.

However, more up my alley is the case of…


Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
FAAAAALKOOOOOOR. German novelist Michael Ende hated movie Petersen’s so much that he demanded his name be removed from the credits, officially denounced it, and “requested that those scenes that contradicted the inner logic of the story should be cut from the final take.” (OK, but why did no one do that for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?). “They had changed the whole sense of the story,” he told People in 1984. “Fantastica [called “Fantasia” in the movie] reappears with no creative force from Bastian. For me this was the essence of the book.”

His problem with the movie is that it was “a humungous melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush and plastic,” which… yeah. I’ll buy that. The Neverending Story is one of those nostalgiarific movies you really shouldn’t watch as an adult, because you’ll realize that it sucks and your childhood was a lie. (Go back and watch the fight between Atreyu and Gmork and tell me it is not stupid and anticlimactic.)

Ende’s book, on the other hand, is a masterpiece, and you should all go read it now. Still, even if his original work was butchered, trying to take legal action against production company Neue Constantine is a little much. Ende’s fiery-hot rage eventually cooled into good, old fashioned bitterness: “At the time I took the whole thing to heart, but these days I don’t let it get to me. I heard somewhere that Part II has been released at the cinema - I haven’t even watched the thing.” Don’t watch the thing.

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Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
No word on what Truman Capote would have thought of the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” had he lived to hear it, but his views on the movie were less than positive. Specifically, he thought Audrey Hepburn was a horrible choice for Holly Golightly, saying of Breakfast that “it was the most miscast film I’ve ever seen. It made me want to throw up.” His choice was Marilyn Monroe, but her acting coach Paula Strasberg talked her out of it, reportedly telling producer Marty Jurow that “Marilyn Monroe will not play a lady of the evening.”

Capote felt “double-crossed” by Hepburn being chosen, and he probably wasn’t too pleased about George Peppard being cast as the male lead either, since it was a role Capote initially wanted for himself. Jurow (who at first thought he was joking) managed to talk him out of it by saying Golightly would be the focus of the film, so “the role just isn’t good enough for you.” Eventually Capote agreed, saying “You’re right. I deserve something more dynamic.”

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Alan Moore, Watchmen
Naturally. Noted hater of everything Alan Moore claims he’s never seen a single movie based on one of his books—a group that includes V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and presumably the Constantine TV show, though no one’s watching that in the first place—but that doesn’t stop him from hating them. “I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying,” he’s said. “It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can’t we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change.”

Say what you will about Evil Santa, but he puts his money where his mouth is, refusing to be paid for any of his film adaptations.

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Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned
Anne Rice was initially skeptical of Tom Cruise playing the long-tressed vampire Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, saying that the casting decision was “so bizarre” that “it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work.” Then the saw the movie and came around. The same cannot be said of Queen of the Damned, which she says “mutilated” her book: “Let’s forget the film. That’s the best thing to do there: simply forget it. I haven’t seen it since it came out. I don’t count it as being based on my work. And I try to blot it out of my mind.”

Queen fans: You can take solace in the fact that Rice’s judgement hasn’t exactly been the greatest lately.

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Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl hated every single movie adaptation of his books. The Witches he called “utterly appalling,” though he reportedly liked the decision to cast Angelica Huston as the head witch, because all of his opinions can’t be wrong. (The anti-semitism, though—VERY WRONG.)

His grouchiness extended to the most famous of his adaptations, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He said director Mel Stuart had “no talent or flair whatsoever” and that Gene Wilder, who flawlessly brought the psycho, child-abusing candyman to life, was “insufficiently gay and bouncy” and his casting “pretentious.” According to Liz Attenborough, trustee of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, he felt Stuart’s adaptation “placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie. For him the book was about Charlie.” Tim Burton switched the focus back with his 2005 adaptation, but I’m pretty sure if Dahl were exhumed and forced to watch it, he would take a shit on the DVD.

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P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins
This one’s so famous they made a movie about it. Walt Disney pursued the rights to Mary Poppins for decades, and Travers eventually gave in because she was low on cheese. She constantly made suggestions during the production process, most of which Disney responded to with “LOL NO.” Among the things she didn’t like were the animation sequence and Poppins not being as strict as she was in the book. Seeing the finished film reduced Travers to tears, and she (like Dahl with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) decided to put the other books in the series on lockdown so no filthy movie types could get their hands on them in the future.

In the ’90s she gave the go-ahead to a stage production of Mary Poppins on the conditions that no one who worked on the movie be involved in any way and that the writers be British. She worked those demands into her will as well, so that Disney could be fucked over from the afterlife.

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Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Surprise, surprise: Bret Easton Ellis’ criticisms of Mary Harron’s American Psycho boil down to him being a self-important jackass.

His main complaint is that the book is “unadaptable because it’s about consciousness, and you can’t really shoot that sensibility.” All movies are straightforward, guys. Pass it on. Making American Psycho as a movie, he continues, “you have to make a decision whether Patrick Bateman kills people or doesn’t,” whereas he intended it to be ambiguous. I guess Harron laying it out so clearly is why people haven’t been debating whether Patrick Bateman actually killed all those people ever since the movie came out. OH WAIT, people have been debating that, because Bret Easton Ellis is not the special snowflake he thinks he is.

He also objected to the movie being made by a woman, because he thinks “there’s something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze…. We’re watching, and we’re aroused by looking, whereas I don’t think women respond that way to films, just because of how they’re built… Regardless of the business aspect of things, is there a reason that there isn’t a female Hitchcock or a female Scorsese or a female Spielberg?”

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