The process of translating our favorite books into film is an inherently tricky conversion. Between casting central characters and fitting in (or cutting out) major plot points, so much can go wrong — or at least stray from the author’s initial intentions. From critically acclaimed fan favorites to box office duds, here are 10 movies despised by their original literary creators.
Generally lauded as one of the best horror films of all time, The Shining’s biggest critic was its original author, Stephen King. Director Stanley Kubrick downplayed the novel’s supernatural elements, favoring domestic tension and tragedy. According to King, evil lies at the heart of the Overlook Hotel and is not inherent to the characters. He was also appalled by Jack Nicholson’s performance, as Nicholson portrayed Jack Torrance as a psychopath from the beginning rather than a victim of his surroundings.
It’s almost as hard to imagine One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest without Jack Nicholson as it is The Shining. But yet again, the actor was subjected to an author’s disapproval — Ken Kesey wanted to cast Gene Hackman in the role of the brash McMurphy. Kesey also wanted the film to be narrated from the point of view of Chief Bromden just as the book was. But the decision to focus on a deaf, mute Native American was an impossible sell to the studio. As a result, Kesey reportedly never even watched the film in protest.
Even massively successful Oscar winners aren’t immune to the wrath of their literary creators. While author Winston Groom was miffed by the movie’s overly sentimental tone, depoliticized message and plot omissions, he was more irked over financial issues than anything else. Initially denied any compensation upon the movie’s release, despite Tom Hank’s $20 million salary, a slew of ugly legal battles ensued. It’s no wonder, then, that the first line of the book’s sequel, Gump And Co., begins: “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.”
Ernest Hemingway hated Hollywood’s take on A Farewell to Arms, claiming there was far too great an emphasis on the romantic aspects of the novel. He did, however, approve of Gary Cooper’s performance and even kindled a life-long friendship with the actor until they both died in 1961.
Many view American Psycho’s ambiguity as one of its greatest strengths. Bret Easton Ellis, however, remains unconvinced that the novel’s unreliable, Huey Lewis-loving narrator made the proper transition from page to screen. Ellis believed the visual component of the film medium inherently answers viewers’ questions about the behaviors and ethics of the characters, thereby making the film less interesting (and unnecessary) in comparison to the novel’s cryptic nature.
It’s hard to believe one of the most beloved children’s films of all time was despised by the author. Author P. L. Travers’ editorial input on the script was completely disregarded by the films producers. As a result, the stricter side of the magical British nanny described in the book is never portrayed, and the viewer is left with over two hours of pure whimsy. And that’s to say nothing of the adorable animated sequences that Travers also loathed.
The notoriously acerbic Roald Dahl was not pleased with the 1971 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. According to Dahl, the film was so “crummy” that he vowed to never let Hollywood obtain the rights to the book’s sequel: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. He also lashed out at Gene Wilder’s iconic performance, calling it “bouncy” and “pretentious.” Good thing he wasn’t around to see the 2005 remake.
While the film adaptations of Alan Moore’s work have varied in quality, none of them have garnered the approval of their creator and probably never will. From the critically panned (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman) to the generally well-liked (V for Vendetta) to those inbetween (Watchmen), all have been despised by the renowned graphic novelist. Moore claims his works are defined by the comic medium they were created in and they simply can’t be translated to film.
Anne Rice was initially skeptical of the casting of Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire, but the film eventually won her praises. It’s sequel Queen of the Damned, however, suffered a far worse fate. With lesser cast replacements (Stuart Townsend took over Cruise’s role as the suave Lestat) and muddled plotting, the film tanked at the box office. Rice swiftly condemned it as a “mutilated” version of her work.
While Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir was a huge success upon its publication in 1994, the film adaption was a straight-to-DVD bomb. Christina Ricci portrays Wurtzel as a self-absorbed, bipolar drug-addict, so it’s really no surprise the author was off-put by such an egomaniacal representation of her life story. Lucky for her, given the film’s lack of publicity or mainstream distribution, no one else really noticed.