It’s a question that hounds us literary lovers constantly: “How has this book not been made into a movie yet?” “It’s such a great book!” “Can you imagine this book as a film?” “This book should be a film”. Of course then comes the very real possibility of having our favorite novel disemboweled and quite possibly destroyed by a film director who doesn’t quite “get” the book the way we do. Or to be fair, many times due to lack of budget or lack of time, it’s impossible for a complex novel to receive the just adaptation it deserves.
Jane Badler, who we remember as the evil and sexy alien leader from the 80’s hit TV series “V”, told me that the book she would love to see get a film adaptation is Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf. “It was the most disturbing passionate book about the human condition seen through the eyes of two werewolves”, she said. Immediately I imagined something akin to the Underworld films, sexy and animalistic in equal measure.
Larry Richman, film and programming director for the Palm Beach International Film Festival stated that his number one choice for a book-to-film project, is The Old Neighborhood by Avery Corman, widely known for two other novels Oh God! which was made into a film starring John Denver and George Burns, and Kramer vs. Kramer, which became the Academy Award winning film of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. “ ‘The Old Neighborhood’ is such a great book. I can’t help but wonder what kind of wonderful film it would make. It’s not too late (to make it)”, Richman said.
Jacqueline Journey, director of the suspense-thriller Hidden Assets, mentioned that a few years ago, she would have named Dan Brown’s best-seller The Lost Symbol as a favorite book-to-film subject. “That was announced to be in development a while back ,although I understand there is some question as to whether or not it will actually get made”, Journey said. “Apparently Ron Howard has signed on to direct an adaptation of a different Dan Brown in the Robert Langdon series (”Inferno”) which could push this one aside”.
In turn, I have selected my own ten novels that we feel are worthy of a great film version. My selections are narrowed to books published in the last five years although in a later installment, I will reveal older novels and even classics that are still waiting for their chance on the big screen, and eventually novels that have been left out of this list not because they are undeserving of a cinematic tribute; rather because the list would have been endless, considering the amount of fantastic fiction published in 2016 alone. For now, these are my first top ten:
10) A Fine Imitation: Amber Brock’s debut novel A Fine Imitation brings the sensuality and luxury of Prohibition-era Manhattan with the twist of an illicit love affair between a society wife and a French artiste. Perfect choice for a sort of End of the Affair type of film.
9) Britt-Marie Was Here: Fredrick Backman’s most recent novel about a housewife with more than a touch of OCD among other things, would make for a film that combines comedy and drama in an enticing cocktail. Wes Anderson would be the man for the job in case this book ever gets made into a film.
8) The Queen of the Tearling: A trilogy by Erika Johanssen, The Queen of the Tearling channels a bit of Game of Thrones but between two queens, one good and one evil. I’m thinking intelligently used CGI and two powerful kick-ass actresses, could make this film version of the book a potential indie blockbuster, if there is such a thing.
7) The After Party: Anton Disclafani’s novel about the secret lives and one-sided friendship between two Texas society belles in 1950’s Houston calls for the magical lens of director Todd Haynes. The beautiful work that he did with Carol would fit perfectly with the past-present narrative and nostalgic feel of The After Party.
6) The Versions of Us: This novel by Laura Barnett is an original take on the proverbial butterfly effect and the possibilities of the road not taken but in three different versions. While the book presents a classic boy-meets-girl plot, Barnett offers three different possibilities of what if, combining it into one astounding page-turner, but never telling us which one is the real version. There are so many ways to ruin a film adaptation for a complex book like this, but it’s still wonderful to think what a fantastic movie it could make.
5) Under the Influence: Best-selling author of Labor Day, Joyce Maynard’s recent novel has the very real possibility of adapting well to a suspense-thriller film. A book about not knowing who your friends and the consequences of ignorance can make for an edge-of-your-seat visually enticing film version.
4) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper: The story of a man who goes looking behind the meaning of several charms dangling from a bracelet that he finds hidden among his wife’s things after she dies, is the essence of Phaedra Patrick’s novel. Again, Wes Anderson could pull this one off effortlessly, a la Grand Budapest Hotel style.
3) The Summer Before the War: For lovers of Jane Austen, Helen Simonson’s novel will come as a delightful historical fiction film set in the Edwardian era, on the brink of World War I. With characters are colorful, witty, endearing and absurd as those found in Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice, The Summer Before the War could certainly become a favorite period -style film.
2) Happy Family: A debut novel by Tracy Barone, Happy Family deals with the trials and tribulations of…well…family. The different relationships between Cheri Matzner, Barone’s unapologetic and fierce protagonist with her adoptive family, her husband and past and present lovers are laced with the perfect amount of drama and dark humor. Cheri is not necessarily your run-of-the-mill likeable character, which would require a director with a sharp wit and a unique vision to give this book a proper adaptation.
1) The Night Circus: A story of a decades-long competition between two powerful illusionists is at the core of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. The playing board for the competition is designed as a magical circus, with charmed tents and performers that are not quite of this world. A visionary mind that could capture the beauty and magical/supernatural elements of The Night Circus and bring it to the big screen would be absolutely essential to maintain the exquisite visual narrative of this book. Maybe Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films or Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro, could find the adequate balance needed to bring this story successfully to the big screen.