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Novel film ideas!

Prem Panicker | September01, 2003 14:45 IST

Come to think of it, my favorite book-to-movie adaptations are:

Mario Puzo's Godfather, which I have re-read a few dozen times and Francis Ford Coppola's film, which I have seen ditto the same applies for Frederick Forsyth's Day Of The Jackal, with Fred Zinnemann helming the screen version (I was so caught up in the pacing and structure of this film that despite having read the book I don't know how many times, I got hold of the screenplay and read that, too, repeatedly); and Edith Wharton's Age Of Innocence, with Martin Scorcese helming the screen version.

Two other books I loved, that rocked as movies, are Stephen King's short, The Shawshank Redemption, and Patricia Highsmith's classic, The Talented Mr Ripley (the latter, in fact, is one of those rare instances when watching a film tempted me into going out and buying the book).

That's to name just five.

Your turn now. Which are your favorite novel-to-film adaptations? And let's leave Shakespeare alone for now. That's a whole new other subject for another day.

Books into movies is a timely topic in another sense: if you look at the lineup Hollywood has for the Fall season just beginning, there's a whole slew of films coming up that are based on bestsellers; some of which I have read, others not.

Among the ones I have read and liked, and want to check out the film versions of, are:

The Human Stain/Phillip Roth: Due for release September 26, starring Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins and one of my favorite 'character actors' (at least, he would have that label if he were an Indian actor in Bollywood. Over here, almost all are character actors in the real sense) Ed Harris.

Despite Roth's occasionally convoluted writing, the book is a gripping morality play that weaves sexual impropriety (think Bill Clinton), and aspects of racism, into one great read.

The Matchstick Men/Eric Garcia: The Ridley Scott movie with Nicolas Cage heading the cast has the potential to be another Catch Me If You Can; the Eric Garcia novel is a light, fun read, a typical beach book that should translate into an easy-viewing film.

Mystic River/Dennis Lehane: The plot of this novel -- which I found the perfect antidote to the tedium of a New York to Mumbai flight -- is about three carefree kids and one life-changing moment that impacts brutally on the rest of their lives.

In that sense, it is a bit like a book I read a long time ago and liked: Celebrity, by Thomas Thompson. If I remember right, that story 'inspired' a Bollywood film.

Clint Eastwood directs the film version (releasing October 8). What makes it a must-see film for me is the cast: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne, with Laura Linney among the female leads.

Runaway Jury/John Grisham: For me personally, Grisham's best period was his first three books. I didn't think too highly of this one when I read it. The film version, due October 17, has a few hooks I don't intend to resist, though. The biggest of them being the prospect of Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman squaring off in a courtroom drama.

There's more in the works, these however are the big ones due out in September-October.

Talking of books into movies, here is one no one's made yet, but which I believe has huge scope for Bollywood. Here's the idea gratis, any amateur (or even professional) script/screenwriters out there, let me know what you think?

The book is The Vanished Man, a Lincoln Rhyme mystery by Jeffrey Deaver. It's your classic locked-door mystery, with a twist. In the set-up scene, a guy commits a killing, he is seen, he runs into a room that has just two doors, both doors are immediately blocked by police officers, they hear sounds inside indicative of human presence, they bust open the doors – and find the room empty.

The twist is, the killer is a master magician adept at misdirection, mentalism, and the other eight branches that comprise the illusionist's vocabulary. Each of his killings is an elaborate performance that mixes magic and mayhem; each is based on a legendary trick by the master escapist Harry Houdini.

The police are unable to cope, so they rope in another magician to help -- and that is as much as I can tell you about the book without spoiling the suspense.

You wouldn't want to work the book, as is, into a film script -- it doesn't translate that well for an Indian audience. But if you take the core -- of a magician as criminal -- you have the makings of a film that can combine the magic of film with the magic of, well, magic.

Look at the visual possibilities inherent in such an idea -- you could, for instance, get a real life magician to play himself (PC Sorcar Junior, say, playing the role of consultant to the cops? Countering the killer's magic with his own?); you could bring in the array of Indian street magicians; the whole -- especially with today's advanced technological possibilities -- could be visually stunning and edge of the seat suspenseful?

Yes? No?

Time for your emails. But before going there, I thought I'd share one of the best film-oriented quotes I've read in recent months.

I found this on backstage.com, which among other things has a story on Francis Ford Coppola's upcoming film, his first in some seven years. At the end, the article discusses what Coppola was up to during this period of hibernation. Here's a direct quote from the article:

'Since the release of his last film in 1997, Coppola has spent most of his time tending to his Napa Valley vineyards and his restaurant businesses -- a task he says is often more rewarding than filmmaking.

"The difference is that it takes you an hour to prepare a nice dish and it's almost always a hit," he said. "But in the movies, it takes years to make a film and, in the end, the reviews are always mixed...That's why I think it's more fun to cook and make wines."

Alright, now over to you guys. And hey, it is the long, Labor Day Weekend, in this part of the world -- I'm going off the map for the next three days, so see you back in here sometime Tuesday:

More Blogs:

Hey, anyone read a good movie lately?

Same BS, different bottle

The best ever books on film?

Magic moments on screen

Previous blogs:
Same difference!
Why doesn't Bollywood make good films these days?

 

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