Turning a popular book into a movie seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Movie execs love established properties, and adapting something that’s got a built-in fanbase seems like a guaranteed way to get bums on cinema seats.
But although it sometimes seems like every book to sell more than a handful of copies has been turned into a film (even non-fiction plotless stuff like He’s Just Not That Into You and What To Expect When You’re Expecting, of all things) there are some famous stories that have yet to grace the silver screen. Here are 12 of the best books yet to be adapted into films, and our picks for directors and stars…
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The book: Ignatius J. Reilly is a vastly overweight 30-year-old man living with his mother. Seeking employment in New Orleans, he suffers a series of misadventures in his one-man battle against the modern world.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: There have been repeated attempts to make a film version, most notably with Harold Ramis in 1982, with John Belushi linked to the lead until his death that year. John Candy and Chris Farley were also touted to play Ignatius before their premature deaths, giving the adaption a reputation for being cursed.
Dream casting: Will Farrell has recently been linked to the role of Reilly, but so far his version has failed to materialise.
Ideal director: Jason Reitman.
The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
The books: A comic fantasy series, chronicling the adventures of the kooky inhabitants of Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the back of a giant turtle.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: With the exception of some made-for-TV efforts, Discworld is probably too complex for a feature film. Essentially parodies of books like Lord of the Rings, Discworld stories interweave and overlap, rather than following a linear narrative, making their adaptation a tricky proposition. There is, however, a rich vein of interesting characters and scenarios ready to be tapped into by some brave filmmaker.
Dream casting: Sir Ben Kingsley as Rincewind, the reluctant and unmagical wizard.
Ideal director: Guillermo del Toro.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The book: Essentially the coming-of-age story of Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old excluded from every school he has been to, who navigates his way through the challenges of growing up.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: With bucketfuls of teen angst, it should be perfect for the Twilight audience, especially given its huge international success. However, its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality may make it difficult to adapt for that particular demographic. J.D.Salinger, the author, was reluctant to agree to a film adaptation, but since his death in 2010 there have been renewed attempts to secure the screen rights.
Dream casting: Ezra Miller as Holden.
Ideal director: Stephen Chbosky.
Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
The book: Charles Gould owns a silver mine which provokes revolution and warring tribes in the fictional nation of Costaguanero. He orders Nostromo, a daring sailor, to keep the silver out of the hands of the revolutionaries, which he does, but ultimately becomes corrupted.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: David Lean was due to film the epic tale, with Marlon Brando, Christopher Lambert, Dennis Quaid and Isobella Rosellini set to star (along with Spielberg offering to produce the film for Warner Bros). Sadly, Lean died as principal photography was about to begin, putting a stop to the whole project.
Dream casting: Daniel Craig as Señor Gould, as Robert Downey Jr as Nostromo.
Ideal director: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Ubik by Philip K Dick
The book: Set in the near future where man has begun to colonise the moon, the book follows Joe Chip, a technician who employs people with the ability to block psychic powers, in order to enforce privacy. After being set up on fake lunar mission, Chip and his crew mates experience strange phenomena, with those that separate from the group winding up dead.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: Just about the only book by science fiction writer Philip K Dick still to be turned into a feature film, an attempt was made in 1974 by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin, commissioning the author to write a screenplay edited heavily from his initial book. In 2011, Michel Gondry was rumoured to be working on a film adaptation, but there are no signs so far. What happened to it?
Dream casting: Tom Cruise as Joe Chip.
Ideal director: Alex Proyas.
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The book: 100 Years of Solitude recounts the story of seven generations of the Buendi family who founded the town of Macondo, believing it to be a kind of utopia. Soon, and over generations, the town befalls a series of extraordinary and unfortunate events, which the family appear to be unable to escape from.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: Although the book has rich themes that are perfectly suited to a cinematic interpretation – and is the author’s best-selling work – Gabriel Garcia Marquez has so far refused to sell the rights to producing the film. That’d explain that, then.
Dream casting: Al Pacino as Jose Arcadio Buendia, patriarch of the Buendia family.
Ideal director: JJ Abrams.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
The book: Set in a future world, Infinite Jest is a highly complex affair, revolving round the missing master copy of a film so entertaining that people lose all interest in anything other than viewing it, leading to their inevitable death in a state of catatonic bliss. Separatists are attempting to get a hold of a copy to aid their terrorist campaign against the United States.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: Simply, the story is so lengthy and complex, with such a disrupted narrative involving themes of substance addiction, depression, child abuse, family relationships, and popular entertainment, that to translate it to film could well be impossible. Just look what happened with World War Z.
Dream casting: The character list is so massive, that there are no real lead roles – another reason it would be difficult to film.
Ideal director: Paul Haggis.
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
The book: Geologist William Dyer discovers the remains of unknown ancient life forms in Antarctica. An exhibition sent to study the remains encounters difficulties as members of their party start to go missing.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: Guillermo del Toro has written a screenplay based on the book, initially mooted as a 3D film starring Tom Cruise. However, due to del Toro’s desire to make it a R-rating, alongside the lack of a happy ending or any kind of love story, he has struggled to raise the finance needed. Given that the premise is very similar to that of Prometheus, an adaptation is unlikely to be arriving anytime soon.
Dream casting: Harrison Ford as Professor William Dyer.
Ideal director: Gareth Edwards (if del Toro doesn’t get to do it).
Drood by Dan Simmons
The book: A fictionalised account of the last years of the life of Charles Dickens. Charting his downward spiral after disaster on a train, the book witnesses him sinking himself into the nightlife of the London slums, alongside an obsession with corpses, murder and opium dens.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: The newest of the novels featured, since it was only written in 2009, it’s early days for this one yet. There’s certainly precedent for the idea of a historical figure mingled with fictional elements (see: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). However, this is a very dark and psychological affair, delivered through an unreliable narrator. Unsurprisingly (and we don’t mean this in any kind of grumpy way!), Guillermo del Toro is said to be circling the project.
Dream casting: Daniel Day-Lewis as Dickens.
Ideal director: Werner Herzog.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The book: Influenced by their classics professor, six students at Vermont college seek to broaden their thinking and style of living through recreating arcane rites. With normal moral boundaries out of the window, the group soon spirals into obsession, betrayal and murder.
Why hasn’t it been filmed: A movie version of The Secret History was reportedly in development by Alan Pakula before his death in a car accident on Long Island in 1998. Tense, bizarre and compelling, and filed in the totally hot right now gritty teen drama category, it’s strange that studios have not yet come knocking with more fervour.
Dream casting: Some kind of combination of Joseph Gordon Levitt, Andrew Garfield, Emily Watson and Carey Mulligan.
Ideal director: Darron Aronofsky.
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
The book: Absalom, Absalom! details the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen a man born into poverty in West Virginia but who dreams of becoming a powerful family patriarch, a dream which ultimately turns on him. Events are retold out of order, gradually peeling back the layers of truth behind Sutpen’s life.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: Telling the same story from three interconnected perspectives would make it difficult to translate into a coherent narrative.
Dream casting: Joaquin Phoenix as Sutpen.
Ideal director: Christopher Nolan.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The book: A mixture of both horror and love story, the multiple plot threads focus in on a family who move into a new house, only to discover that the inside is larger than the outside, which gradually drives them insane.
Why it hasn’t been filmed: As a piece of writing, it’s unconventional to say the least – it uses frequent footnotes, different coloured text and unusual layouts, and it’s written in a very disorientating style. As it stands, the author is currently refusing to sell the movie rights, but even if these were obtained it would take a very skilled director to thread together all the elements.
Dream casting: James Franco as Johnny Truant, the central protagonist.
Ideal director: Spike Jonze.
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