This week’s Top 5 is sponsored by Patreon contributors Sharon and Stephenson Humphries-Brooks. Thanks for supporting the Dames!
The Dames don’t have a ton of free time, but what little we have we try to enjoy away from the television screen. The world of books is wide and constantly changing. Even if Hollywood stuck purely to adaptations they’d never get to every book, nor in the way that would probably please us. So with that the Dames turned to the printed page, listing the top 5 books they’d love to see adapted to screen (and some of them have casting decisions in case anyone is willing to take us up on our ideas). Share your suggestions in the comments below!
I don’t read as much fiction as I used to. But when I do, my mind automatically goes to “Who could play this person in the movie.” I maintain I need a job reading books for a living and recommending the best ones to studio executives. (I’m looking for work if any studio execs are hiring in this department.) That being said I went to the books I love for inspiration – and one that I’ve been talking about after seeing a certain movie last week.
The Pornographer’s Poem by Michael Turner
This is something I still try to do, but if a movie’s been announced and there’s a book involved I’ll do my damndest to read it. I don’t care about spoilers, I like to know what’s gonna happen (or be able to complain about it with correct information on its source material). I can see why no one’s adapted Turner’s book yet, and I’m honestly surprised it was greenlit in the first place – mind you, this announcement was at least a decade ago. The story is told in first person by a young man presumably being interviewed for something; it’s not revealed till the end. Our protagonist details his life opposite his best friend, Netty, and how they navigate the confusing world of sex together. It’s a book that’s fairly frank in its depictions of sex, particularly kink. Let’s just say nothing is off-limits here short of dead people so, yes, if you’re thinking “But they can’t do that!” they probably did in the book. So, again, it’s a VERY hard sell, but it’s a book that’s so fascinating. It describes sex and identity in ways that aren’t pretty, that are sometimes downright disgusting, but it’s authentic. And the third act is utterly batshit but I want to see it depicted. Watching Sorry to Bother You this week I kept thinking that Boots Riley might work for this film, or maybe Paul-Thomas Anderson. If we can get three goddamn Fifty Shades movies, we should be able to get this!
The Iliad by Homer
Okay, I know adapting Greek myths has happened a bunch. And I’m one of the few people who enjoys Wolfgang Peterson’s attempt at doing the Trojan War with the 2004 film Troy. But, that’s not to say I wouldn’t like an actual, non-popcorn/summer blockbuster take on this movie. It’s such a fascinating poem and that’s before the war even happens! I want a Paris and Helen story that looks at their relationship without needing swordfights and shit. This is a story that, at it’s core, is an Eve-esque story where a woman is blamed for everything and a man who doesn’t convey the right type of masculinity is persecuted. You could have Mimi Leder direct this movie. Make Achilles a background character, no one needs him! Make Chris Hemsworth Paris (I know you all would say another of my boys should be here, but we’ll see him later) and get Ana de Armas to play Helen. It’d be a serious dramatic enterprise on par with Titanic, I promise!
Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
Hollywood keeps adapting the wrong Dennis Lehane books. I love Gone Baby, Gone, in spite of the garbage human who anchors it, but it’s not the best Lehane book. It was just the easiest. The Kenzie-Gennero series by Lehane is some of the best gumshoe fiction out there with a P.I. duo that I want to see actually work together. No offense to Ben Affleck – actually, I hope he takes offense – but he fucked over Angie Gennero and I do not forgive him. Darkness, Take My Hand is the darkest book of the series with Patrick Kenzie and his partner Angie having to take down a vicious child killer. The third act of this book is tailor-made for Scorsese. Get some dark alleys, gunshots, Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and it’d be amazing. (Okay, so I’ve thought about this a lot.) The stakes are high in this book and you could easily adapt it self-contained. Who do I see as my Kenzie-Gennero? It’s crazy, but go with me on this. Josh Brolin and Amy Adams. I’ve thought about this a lot.
Bye, Bye Baby by Max Allan Collins
If my previous entry wasn’t an indication, I like my mysteries hardboiled. Max Allan Collins is a writer in the tradition of Mickey Spillane and I have no idea why Cinemax attempted to adapt his Quarry series instead of his Nathan Heller one. The Nathan Heller series of books follow Heller, a private dick, as he gets involved in some of the most controversial cases in history. Think of it as L.A. Confidential meets Forrest Gump. So Heller has been involved in the Amelia Earhart story, the Lindbergh kidnapping, and the death of Bugsy Siegel, to name a few. But the one I think would be the most popular is Bye, Bye Baby, where Heller attempts to solve whether Marilyn Monroe killed herself or was murdered. What I love is that Collins does a lot of research and he includes his own thoughts on the case at the end of each book, so the script could either go with his logic or give their own. We need more throwback crime dramas dammit and I want this one. Okay, and yes Jon Bernthal is fucking perfect to play Heller but that’s why I want it to be made……okay, it’s not ENTIRELY why I want it to be made.
The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
I’m going to try very hard not to spoil things in explaining why I want this movie remade. Wells’ novel has technically be made three times for Hollywood – the 1932 Charles Laughton horror film Island of Lost Souls; 1977’s Island of Doctor Moreau, starring Burt Lancaster and Michael York; and the 1996 disaster starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. (I hold a soft spot for the so terrible 1996 version, by the way. Blame Val Kilmer.) But we need a weird-ass director like Edgar Wright to take this batshit insane novel and do it up right. And, again, not wanting to spoil things, but Armie Hammer would be utterly perfect. If you saw Sorry to Bother You he is built to play a power-mad douche with a God complex who runs his own island. Justin Theroux could even play his Guy Friday, Montgomery just to give me everything I want!
It’s crazy to think about how many movies are adapted from novels, and then to turn back around and realize how many books have never gotten a cinematic showcase. (Or at least a good one.) Here are just a couple, off the top of my head.
The Seeing Summer by Jeannette Eyerly
In fifth grade, I was obsessed with a novel about a lonely girl who is very excited when a new girl around her age moves in next door. Her enthusiasm immediately dissipates when she discovers the girl is blind and thinks they won’t be able to do anything together. But she quickly learns that her new, blind neighbor is just as–and frequently MORE–capable to handle herself in the world. The girls are kidnapped and have to work together to get themselves rescued. There are a lot of things that happen, but I think it would make a great movie, and I think Storm Reid from A Wrinkle in Time would be a great choice. For the blind neighbor? I’d love to see them cast a young, blind actress. It’s a great story, full of messages kids (and adults) really need today.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
I have no idea who I would suggest to play the incredibly unique Jenny Lawson, but her memoir would make for the funniest movie ever. Her first memoir is a collection of funny stories from her life. There are tales of her father’s adventures in taxidermy, and a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond that resulted in the world’s most famous giant metal chicken. She also regales us with anecdotes about her terrible sense of direction and the time she dropped acid. I need this to be a movie.
Calico Joe by John Grisham
Occasionally, John Grisham’s wandering away from legal thrillers work really well. This is one of his best non-law-themed novels. The story is told from the point of view of Paul Tracey. Now an adult, his life has been shaped in large part by an incident that happened when he was a young boy, sitting in the stands while his father, a major league pitcher, faced the rookie phenom known as Calico Joe. The elder Tracey threw a wild pitch, hit the young batter in the head and ended his career, and nearly his life. Paul is determined to bring his father face to face with what he did all those years ago. It’s a bit of a road trip story, and yeah, those have been done a lot, but it’s just so well done. Monsieur Pine would make a great Paul Tracey. As for his father, or Calico Joe himself? I’m still on the fence about those casting choices. Although, I mean, Hemsworth did play Pine’s father once before…
Dune by Frank Herbert
Sure, you can keep Timothée Chalamet. But please can we have a different director?
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
A few years ago, 12 Years a Slave made me realize that while there are a lot of films that incorporate themes around slavery, there really aren’t a lot of films that tell the story of slaves from their point of view. And Harriet Jacobs had a life that always haunted me. Apparently there is a television show in some level of development, but I think this would make a devastating and incredible film. And I think someone like Adepero Oduye from Pariah would be amazing.
Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett
As with many Terry Pratchett books, Wyrd Sisters has already been adapted as a miniseries (in this case, a cartoon). But also like many Terry Pratchett books, the miniseries doesn’t do justice to the brilliance of the author, nor does it attempt to approximate in visual form what Pratchett did with words. And Wyrd Sisters is perfect for a live action adaptation—there are three strong female roles, some magic, some murder, a riff on Shakespeare, opportunities for visual jokes and puns. Yes, Discworld is difficult to visualize, partially because Pratchett’s world is at once cartoonish and deadly serious, funny and dramatic, but it’s a fundamentally adult world and should be treated as such. So, I want to see a live-action version of Wyrd Sisters, but mostly, I want to see Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg onscreen in all their glory, preferably played by Maggie Smith and Judi Dench respectively. Please? It’s not that much to ask.
The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake
As with Discworld, there have been attempts to turn Mervyn Peake’s bizarre fantasy world Gormenghast into a miniseries, but unfortunately the series manages to miss out on all that makes Gormenghast so fascinating. Also like Pratchett, much of the Gormenghast trilogy is not so much about what happens, but how it’s described. Still, Gormenghast would be uniquely suited to line animation—and Peake himself created drawings of characters and locations to draw from. In the hands of a good director and a strong artistic team, it could be a beautiful and terrifying journey. Make it happen.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
But Lauren, hasn’t The Talented Mr. Ripley been made into a film? Yes, dear reader, it has, several times over, but for some reason known only to God, it has never been faithfully adapted. The best version of Tom Ripley himself is Alain Delon in Purple Noon; the version that cleaves closest to the book is probably the Matt Damon/Jude Law film. But for some reason, the films either stop short of really going into Ripley’s strange psyche, or try to explain away his sociopathy with some banal Freudiansms. Highsmith’s Ripley is the increasingly frightening story of an amoral young man who works his way from a small-time con artist to stealing a man’s identity, and then beyond, almost by accident. A good adaptation of Ripley could give way to adapting the other Ripley books (again, properly this time, none of whatever the hell The American Friend was supposed to be). Those novels deal with Tom’s marriage, the murders that follow him, and his entrance into the world of art forgery. Now, if only we could bring 1960s Alain Delon back…
American Tabloid, by James Ellroy
A few years ago, James Franco expressed interest in adapting James Ellroy’s vicious take on the Kennedy Administration, but nothing ever came of it. More’s the pity, because American Tabloid has only become more topical, dealing as it does with corruption at every level of government, the Mob purchasing a presidential candidate, violent racism turned into political gain, and the willingness of the cruel and greedy to exploit every facet of American society for personal enrichment. Yes, some elements of the novel would be difficult to adapt into cinematic structure, but a good director could maintain the spirit of the book while excising and streamlining the narrative. I also happen to think that Josh Brolin is perfect for one of the lead characters, so Kristen would be happy, too.
The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
As with American Tabloid, there have been rumors of Joe Abercrombie’s excellent First Law Trilogy getting adapted into big screen adventures for some time now, but nothing appears to have happened. The first book The Blade Itself would make a remarkable film with the right director and cast, relying as it does on the overturning of many fantasy tropes, bringing the reader down into the mud and blood with protagonists that are assassins, barbarians, and Grand Inquistors. It’s a brilliantly realized fantasy world, down to the last detail, and there is so much that could be done with it.
Confession coming, I’m an English major who is a lot less literary than I used to be. I was sitting here trying to remember the books that really struck a chord with me which have yet to be made into films and it was a struggle. To make matters worse, my reading tastes when I’m left on my own are fluffy. I’m not proud. These are the adaptations I want to see. Some aren’t books, some have already been made, but there’s something which keeps them from being as good as they can be.
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Alright, I can hear the arguments already. “We already have a cinematic version of The DaVinci Code, Kim! Why are you picking that one?” What Ron Howard brought to screens (while respectable) isn’t the book I saw in my head. The sticking point? Robert Langdon. I launched through The DaVinci Code in high school and finished it within days. I had an image in my head (I cast every book I read), Hugh Jackman. No disrespect to America’s favorite uncle, Tom Hanks, but I saw Mr. Jackman in my head as Langdon from the beginning. As a result, the movie has always been a bit of a let-down.
The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
Speaking of cinematic let downs, I’ve been reading Janet Evanovich’s series about quirky New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum for years. I mean, she’s on book twenty-five, so do the math. When Hollywood announced a film version it ended up being little more than a blip on the cinematic landscape. No disrespect to the respective performers, (with the exception of the always iconic Debbie Reynolds) this wasn’t the Stephanie Plum series I had in mind. My series starred: Sandra Bullock, Ray Liotta, The Rock (so sue me, it was the 2000s). So, while the lackluster box-office numbers assured there wouldn’t be a new entry to the series, I think there should be. The Stephanie Plum books are fun, entertaining summer reading and (in the hands of a new filmmaking team) could be great material for a new cinematic adaptation.
The Paige Turner series by Amanda Matetsky
I always work in a 1940s/1950s piece of nostalgia, and here it is. I sped through these books as quickly as they hit my local library. Snicker all you want about the fact the lead’s name is Paige Turner; I don’t care. The lead is a woman solving crimes in 1950s Greenwich Village. What more could a gal like me ask for? It’s a ready-made franchise with Hayley Atwell in the lead, of course.
The Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler
Like a few of my above examples, Hollywood attempted Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series in days gone by (2005, where did the time go?). In my mind, Sahara was a lot of fun and I really can’t bash it too hard. Was it great? No. Was it good? Meh. However, it was a little bit of fluffy goodness which I really enjoyed. There are dozens upon dozens of Clive Cussler books which present a slightly revisionist history which I really enjoy. While Sahara was clearly a one-and-done in Hollywood, I’d love to see them try it again, perhaps without Mr. McConaughey.
Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Fine, I’m cheating here. I really want to see Hamilton adapted for the screen. I haven’t been lucky enough to get to New York, and the lottery for the most recent Denver run of the musical treated me really mean. Hollywood, take note: the original cast is fine.