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Books on Film

September 7, 2011


Three very important authors are getting the film treatment, two are getting films made while one is denying the rights to his, posthumously. All three of them are dead, incidentally, which saves them the obvious horror of seeing what Hollywood made of their masterpieces. One of the most sought after film adaptations of all time, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road will finally see the light of day in November. Kerouac himself was offered $110,000 and the lead role in the film by Warner Brothers. Brando was once attached and Coppola actually acquired the rights and even began shooting to no avail, underscoring the difficulty in successfully adapting a much-loved literary classic. On the Road Director Walter Salles’ Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries felt like a book at times: slow, dense, plodding...

A feud recently erupted between the son of J.D. Salinger and a memorabilia dealer who published a letter from the writer to a producer outlining why he would never sell the film rights to Catcher in the Rye. Salinger’s estate has issued a cease and desist regarding the published letter, perpetuating Salinger’s reclusive behavior, which is unfortunate because passages like this lucidly describe the author’s hesitation:

“I keep saying this and nobody seems to agree, but Catcher in the Rye is a very novelistic novel. There are readymade “scenes” – only a fool would deny that – but, for me, the weight of the book is in the narrator’s voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it, his personal, extremely discriminating attitude to his reader-listener, his asides about gasoline rainbows in street puddles, his philosophy or way of looking at cowhide suitcases and empty toothpaste cartons – in a word, his thoughts…there is enough material left over for something called an Exciting (of maybe just Interesting) Evening in the Theater. But I find that idea if not odious, at least odious enough to keep me from selling the rights…My mail from producers has mostly been hell.”

Hunter S. Thompson saw it similarly… 

“Have you ever tried to deal with these mother-f*cking lawyers and agents in Hollywood?”

“I've been dealing with these yo-yos buying options on things for years. Options have been essentially paying the rent. The Las Vegas book has been optioned several times. So to me it [the Buffalo Story] was just another option job. Then all of a sudden there was some moment of terrible horror when I realized they were going to make the movie. Last summer, when I actually saw the fucking set on the lot, I thought, "Whoa! Good God!"

Thompson’s latest, The Rum Diary, is due out in October and stars Johnny Depp, reprising a similar role he played in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

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