Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Exclusive Interview: Jodi Picoult on My Sister's Keeper Adaptation

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult is in the UK at the moment to talk about her new book Lone Wolf. The author of books including Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes and Songs of a Humpback Whale was good enough to squeeze me into her busy schedule and I got to ask the lady herself just what she thought of the adaptation process from the perspective of the book's author.

Check out My Sister's Keeper: Book vs Film here

My Sister's Keeper – arguably your most popular book to date – was adapted into a film a few years ago. But the dramatic ending change in the film version angered many fans. How was that whole experience for you as the author and do you think authors should have involvement in adaptations?

Authors have no involvement in adaptations. Hollywood thinks we are the least important piece of the puzzle and by and large authors have zero control over a film. You give a baby up for adoption, you hope it goes to a good family and sometimes you're disappointed which is surely what happened to me with My Sister's Keeper.

In my case, the director knew that I thought it was very important that the ending stay the same and when he met with me, he read the book and said 'You're right, that's the only ending for the story. I'm not going to change it. If it does change, I'm going to tell you why and tell you myself.'

I then spent a year working with him, creating a script that was very close to the book and then one day a fan who worked at the casting agency contacted me to ask if I knew they had changed the ending. I called Nick, the director, at his house and he wouldn't talk to me and I flew to the set and he kicked me off the set and I went to the head of New Line Cinema and I said 'You're going to lose money on this film' and he said 'We know what we're doing'. And sure enough they lost a lot of money on the film.

I hope this hasn't put you off allowing any other adaptations in the future.
No, in fact Ellen Degeneres has the movie rights to Sing you Home and she's got a director attached, a star attached and a terrific producing team and they are going out now to produce it and starting to get interest for it which is wonderful.

The full interview can be found at Novelicious .

To find out where Jodi Picoult will be speaking on her UK tour check out her website -

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Hunger Games: Book vs Film

The first in the hotly-anticipated Hunger Games films hits screens this weekend and the fans of the books - written by Suzanne Collins - are hoping for greatness with the hype suggesting that Director Gary Ross may have actually done it really well. So has it worked...?

The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old citizen of district 12 - the poorest district in Panem. Each year, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected at the reaping ceremony for the 'honour' of representing their district in a fight to the death which is televised to the entire population of Panem. Katniss has been surviving for years and providing for her mother and sister so when her little sister Prim's name is called at the reaping, she volunteers to go in her place. Whisked away to the Capitol where luxury and excess is the norm, Katniss has a few days amongst the glitz and glamour of the Capitol to prepare before she is thrown into the games.

The book of The Hunger Games packed an emotional punch thanks largely to the central focus of Katniss and all her struggles to survive, her flaws and her drive. The film manages to keep this focus with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role. Katniss is a massively complex character who many actresses would have struggled to play. However, Lawrence has surpassed expectations with a quietly restrained but massively heart-wrenching performance. She is both  strong and vulnerable, emotional and cold, affectionate and distant. Lawrence manages to achieve it all with apparent ease and in the few moments where she lets her emotions take over, all you want to do is reach into the screen and give her a hug - a feeling no doubt many fans of the book did when they read it.

Her support in the film comes in the shape of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks as Effie and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. But the acting talent does not stop with this impressive core. The supporting cast each bring something to their respective roles.

Courtesy of Lionsgate/Murray Close

The Hunger Games is not just about the characters though. The Panem Collins created in her books was so imaginative that it drew readers into another world. Escapism at its finest, the stories were so much more than just the drama. The detail in outfits, hair and make-up as well as nuances of each district are part of the reason The Hunger Games trilogy stood out to readers. In the film, this care and attention to detail has been upheld brilliantly. 

There are changes though, as many expected. Smaller parts are ignored entirely. The Avox cast are kept in the background with only a fleeting reference to the Capitol removing your tongue if you disobey them. William Faulkner said you have to "kill your darlings" and if someone had to go, personally I'm glad it was the Avox who didn't make the cut. There are also additions - but only if you have only read the first book. What Ross has cleverly done in the adaptation is start the build-up to Catching Fire with a few teasers along the way. In the books, Collins liked to start each book with a sort of recap of what had been missed between books - things Katniss couldn't possibly know but guessed were true. One death that is assumed at the start of Catching Fire happens at the end of The Hunger Games.

Squeamish fans be warned, the rating may be a 12a but the violence is not. There may be nine seconds less of blood spatter but there is a shot of one tribute breaking the neck of another in one swift movement which still makes me shudder to think of it. Those who fear the violence is a bad thing, let me assure you that both book and film far from glorify it. It is an essential part of the story, illustrating the horrors the citizens are forced to endure at the hands of their government. What is written around so eloquently by Collins in the book is horrific to watch on the big screen though. There is no way to detach from it like there was in the book, as in the arena there are no wigs, no make-up - just 24 children vying for each other's blood in order to protect their own.

The major difference between the book and film is that, though still led by Katniss, the film explores a world beyond her own. The audience gets to see inside Seneca Crane's control room and President Snow's rose garden. As the games begin, we see Gale alone in the forest - thinking of Katniss - and families watching their TV sets. Far from weakening the story though, this only serves to enhance it. We see the effect Katniss and the games are having on the citizens of Panem. Instead of following along with the pawns in the games, the audience gets a glimpse at what it's like to pull the strings behind the scenes. The manipulation is constant and felt, it seems, to be necessary for the 'greater good' of Panem.

What Ross has done in this adaptation is spectacular. He hasn't been wholly concerned with the book fans and forgotten that people will just want to see the film. He caters to both markets. This is not a page by page adaptation to the big screen but it is a perfect example of what great adaptations should do - take the original text and adapt it lovingly to a new medium.

This is one of the finest adaptations I have ever seen. The fundamentals of the story are upheld, the very best actors are there to breathe life into Collins's creations and the imagination and emotion that resonates off ever page of the book is there in every scene in the film. For a film that could so easy have become an overly sentimental tearjerker, favouring either action or plot, it remains poignant, subtle, heart-wrenching and above all, the perfect balance of action and violence with emotion and character-driven plot.

Book - 4.5/5 FOBLES
Film - 5/5 FOBLES

Friday, 16 March 2012

Benjamin Mee on How it Feels to Have Your Life Adapted onto the Big Screen

Last night I got to chat to Benjamin Mee and his brother Duncan Mee about how it feels to have your life turned into a film. Benjamin wrote the book of We Bought a Zoo on which the film is based. The film, which hits UK cinema screens today, is directed by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) and stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Here's what the Mee brothers had to say:

“I couldn’t be happier with the way Cameron Crowe and Matt Damon treated this.
Cameron Crowe is one of the most compassionate men working in Hollywood…
He hasn’t brushed it under the carpet.”
 - Benjamin Mee

On the decision to move the film's setting to the US, Benjamin said that it was an economic decision on the part of the filmmakers. He also added that his agent told him “If they want to set in Mars – just say yes!”

I asked Benjamin's brother Duncan who out of the family got the most excited when they discovered who would be playing them in the film. He responded that it was “the children, they were the most excited...Benjamin was quite candidly in open-disbelief that Matt Damon was going to do it. He’d wanted Matt Damon…”

Duncan also added: “I hope now that the zoo’s going to be quite busy as a result of the film.”

So with a clear passion for the zoo and all who live and work there, human and animal, here's hoping the film does well for the Mee family.

To find out more about the Dartmoor Zoo and the Mee family, check out the official website here.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

POLL: What is the Greatest Adaptation Ever Made?

What is the greatest adaptation ever made? And no I don't just mean which was the most accurate representation of the book. I mean which film took all the best bits of the book and converted them into a great film that could stand alone in its brilliance. So here's the longlist. Let me know in the comments which is your favourite and if I've missed any corkers!!!

For the sake of keeping the list down *a little* I've left off TV adaptations and plays etc. We are talking book to cinematic films only.

Let's get this list down to our top 10...
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Jane Eyre (2011)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  • Fight Club
  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Remains of the Day
  • Jaws
  • Carrie
  • Little Women (1994)
  • One Day
  • Misery
  • Atonement
  • The Shining
  • Stand By Me
  • High Fidelity
  • The Cider House Rules
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • The Color Purple
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Battle Royale
  • The Godfather
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • No Country for Old Men
  • The Harry Potter Series
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
  • Sleepers
  • The Help
  • Apt Pupil
  • Tarantula/The Skin I live In

Stephen King to Read His Own Audiobook

Stephen King Books

Stephen King fans who prefer listening to his creations rather than reading them may have just hit the jackpot with the news that he is to lend his own voice to the audiobook recording of The Wind Through the Keyhole.

King had this to say on the decision:
“I’ve spent a lot of time with the character of Roland Deschain and the Dark Tower universe over the years. Now that I am revisiting that world, it felt like a fine time to lend it my voice.”
So what do you think? Will he do a good job? Are any fans who normally read his book tempted to go audio for this one...?  Let me know in the comments section.