You are of course aware of my obsession with books being turned into films. Not too long ago I insisted the book is ALWAYS better. See my September post if you’ve forgotten. Whenever I hear an adaptation of a favourite or classic novel is being produced for the small or large screen I inevitably cringe. Can you blame me? Let’s review a summary of the evidence yet again:
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – a total disaster
Dracula – Wynona Ryder
War of The Worlds – Tom Cruise posturing
Emma – Gwynnyth Paltrow’s attempt at an English accent
Chocolat – great eye candy and nothing more
Northern Lights – even the title was too complicated for Hollywood and had to be changed to The Golden Compass
The list could go on and on but I’ll stop there because thankfully in 2016 a seed change occurred, particularly in #gogglebox adaptations. It all started with the Beeb’s excellent production of Le Carrè’s The Night Manager. The cast choice was superb and the pace exactly what I would expect of a spy thriller. There were some modifications to move events from the original setting of the book in the 1990s to a more modern setting but they didn’t detract from the excellent story which was there to begin with. My Sheffield best buddy is an avid reader of Le Carrè (she has all his novels) and will not be upset when I tell you she was equally impressed with this small screen adaptation. So don’t just take my word for it. Nicely done BBC Drama.
This small screen nugget seemed to get other directors fired up and CBC quickly followed up in 2017 with a 6 part series of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. I found the book intriguing so was anxious they wouldn’t make a hash of it. I’m very happy to say they didn’t. Once again choice of actors and script management were excellent.
Several other directors were obviously getting awards envy and decided to put their own spin on more of my favourites. Amazon Prime announced its choice of lead actors for Pratchett’s Good Omens as Michael Sheen and David Tennant. In my house the excitement levels reached epic proportions and that was just my reaction. But I was equally filled with trepidation. A good cast does not necessarily a good series make. Happily, Pratchett did not have to spin in his grave. They even launched the series with events which included the chance to be photographed holding a snake. Yes. I. Did.
Now the Beeb seems to be getting it right again with a very good go at Pullman’s His Dark Materials. They’ve woven elements from the entire trilogy into the series. This was always going to be tricky. So far so good. I’m certainly not hating it and waiting with a little bit of baited breath to see how it evolves. Loving the casting and quality of the acting. But not that enamoured of the casting of Lee Scoresby as I must confess to having a soft spot for Sam Elliot, the actor who played him in the Hollywood film. We all have out faults.
I certainly hope this bumper pack of great adaptations means this is the way forward. I truly love it when my favourite reads come to life on the small and big screen but, as you well know, will not be silenced if I feel they fall short in any way.