This Autumn our cinema has become more obsessed with novel adaptations than ever before. 2012 was the year that Keira Knightley donned a ball gown as Anna Karenina, Emma Watson lost the dress robes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Cusack became Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven. What’s more, Hollywood has been keenly snatching up even the most unlikely of potential adaptations for filming. I don’t know how or why these films are being produced but here are five of the most unlikely, which really are being filmed.
1. 50 Shades of Grey
It’s true: E.L James’ surprise hit is coming to a cinema near you. The S&M romp details college student Ana’s recruitment by business tycoon Christian Grey as a sex slave. How this film can be adapted without veering into pornography is a good question; I’m guessing there’ll be a lot of dark rooms and lower backs; but Universal optioned the rights to the text for $5 million dollars this March and the film will be directed by Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti, the producers behind The Social Network. I am most looking forward to their interpretation of E.L James’ ropey prose.
‘Jeez, I’m a quivering moist mess and he hasn’t even touched me.’
Hilariously, Brett Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, offered to be the screenwriter of the novels over Twitter, only to be ignored.
2. The Raw Shark Texts
Stephen Hall’s 2007 novel was a high-concept thriller featuring ‘conceptual’ sharks made from information, coding sequences and ‘un-chapters’ (whatever those are). The book even contains a 30 page flick-book near the end. In many respects The Raw Shark Texts is so experimental that it will be interesting to see how its adaptation turns out. Currently, a full screenplay for the novel has been written by Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire. A film was also created by Canongate to promote the novel, starring Tilda Swinton and linked here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/video/2007/sep/27/rawsharktexts).
3. Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell’s award winning 2004 novel blurred past, present, future and narratives. The book is divided into many different segments each narrated by a different character: a tribesman from a post-apocalyptic future and a scribe for a Belgian composer among them. The challenge in adapting this novel will be the seamless translation of a book of so many different parts and characters into a film. But on the plus side, the original text is fantastic. The film is going to be released this month in the USA and has been directed and written by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski brothers, famous for directing The Matrix.
4. Ouija (and other board games)
It’s not just unlikely novels which are being adapted: board games are hitting the silver screen too. Universal and Hasbro are joining forces to create Ouija, a film based on the unsettling board game where people sit around a table and attempt to contact the spirits of the dead (available for age 8+ at $19.99). It is news to me that Hasbro produces Ouija boards as well as Cluedo and Guess Who, but I suppose there must be a market for darker Friday family nights. The film will be a high-concept, low-budget horror movie much in the style of Paranormal Activity or Insidious and is set to be released in 2013. Apparently the original board game includes a full Ouija board and glow in the dark letters, which is a nice artistic touch.
Risk and Monopoly are rumoured to be in production also. Monopoly is being written and directed by Alien star director Ridley Scott and details the difficulties of a real estate tycoon in a capitalist world while Risk will be a globe-trotting action thriller. Make sure to look out for any tactically placed irons or wheelbarrows in Monopoly.
5. Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel is also in the process of being filmed and is set to be released in 2013. The film will star Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo) as Ender, an unusually gifted child sent to a military school in outer space where he is trained to fight against an alien enemy known as ‘buggers’. The novel is science fiction gold dust so director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) will have to be careful not to offend Card’s legion of fans. Whilst the novel is revered for being exciting and ethically challenging it is also interesting because critics have highlighted its strange (because Card is on record as against gay-marriage) homoerotic subtext, involving a shower scene wrestling match and frequent nudity. I am not sure how these scenes will translate into film or even whether they will be cut because the novel is supposed to be about children, so expect Ender’s Game to be a controversial production.
These are just some of the ambitious (and in some cases downright wacky) adaptations coming up in Hollywood over the next few years. If it hadn’t been cut earlier this year, the ‘horror of second year English’ Paradise Lost (2012) would surely have made my list. Seeing the Miltonian Epic with a couple of mates down at Cineworld would have been a surreal and incredible experience. Here’s hoping that a down and out screenwriter (perhaps Brett Easton Ellis) picks up the pieces and Paradise Lost makes it to the screen.
Image by Mike Fleming