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9 Authors Who Weren’t Happy With Their Books’ Movie Adaptations

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I don’t know what your plans are for this weekend, but mine definitely involve not seeing Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Mostly because I don’t have time in my schedule to recite that title to the person in the box office. And also because it looks terrible, horrible, no good and very bad. (I know, I’m so original.) Some people are saying nice things about it, though. Like the author of the book, Judith Viorst. Her recent interview with Vulture, before she saw the film, made it sound like she maybe wanted to distance herself from it:

“You know, it’s their version of the movie. I already had my version,” she says, referring to a charming stage musical that was produced a few years ago. “So I was able to let it go.”

But then she spoke to EW after seeing it and said some very nice things. Phew. It would have been awkward if she wasn’t happy with it, right?

Right. It would have. And it has been. Because sometimes authors see the movies based on their work — or just witness what the filmmakers are doing to it during production — and aren’t satisfied. Just because you give permission for someone to adapt your book doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy about the result. Some of those dissatisfied authors have been vocal about their disappointment. These are their stories.

1. Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

As someone thoroughly disturbed by the 1971 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I can’t really argue with Dahl’s dissatisfaction. He actually began adapting the novel himself, but after failing to meet deadlines it was rewritten by David Seltzer. Dahl was unhappy with how much emphasis the movie placed on Willy instead of Charlie, as well as some other plot deviations. He refused to let another adaptation of the book or its sequel occur in his lifetime. Wonder what he would have thought about Tim Burton’s version.

2. Stephen King, The Shining

King has made several negative comments over the years about Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel. He felt that many of the book’s most important themes were ignored and the supernatural elements downplayed. More recently he also declared Kubrick’s depiction of Shelley Duvall’s character to be misogynistic:

“Shelley Duvall as Wendy is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film, she’s basically just there to scream and be stupid and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.”

3. E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Remember that cute 1973 Hanna-Barbera animated musical version of this book (not the one with Dakota Fanning)? I do. I loved it. E.B. White, on the other hand, did not love it. He particularly hated that it was a musical:

“The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don’t care much for jolly songs.”

4. P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers’ issues with Disney’s adaptation of her novel formed the basis of last year’s Saving Mr. Banks, although many would argue it was an inaccurate representation of Travers’ true opinions about the movie. She disliked the animated sequences and cried at the movie’s premiere. She also refused to let Disney adapt the rest of the series.

5. Winston Groom, Forrest Gump

Groom’s problem with the Oscar-winning adaptation of his novel was that they didn’t even pay him for it, with producers claiming it was because the movie didn’t turn a profit. He had to sue to get the money he was owed, and he started his Forrest Gump sequel with this line: “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.” BURN.

6. Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned

Anne Rice didn’t come around to this one the way she did with Interview With the Vampire. (She doubted Tom Cruise’s casting initially but ended up being impressed.) Here’s what she said about Queen of the Damned on Facebook in 2012:

“Let’s forget the film. That’s the best thing to do there: simply forget it. I haven’t seen it since it came out. I don’t count it as being based on my work. And I try to blot it out of my mind.”

7. Alan Moore, Watchmen

Actually, Alan Moore is unhappy with all adaptations of his work, because he dislikes modern cinema in general, but let’s talk about Watchmen here. He’s been very vocal about disliking the adaptation of his graphic novel. Here’s what he said in response to news that the movie was being made:

“It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms.”

8. Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

Here’s another author who’s complained about more than one adaptation. For American Psycho, he’s said he doesn’t think any film adaptation would work because of the nature of the book:

American Psycho was a book I didn’t think needed to be turned into a movie. I think the problem with American Psycho was that it was conceived as a novel, as a literary work with a very unreliable narrator at the center of it and the medium of film demands answers. It demands answers. You can be as ambiguous as you want with a movie, but it doesn’t matter — we’re still looking at it. It’s still being answered for us visually.”

9. Audrey Geisel, The Cat in the Hat

Audrey Geisel is Dr. Seuss’s widow, and she was not happy with the way her late husband’s classic book was adapted for the screen. You know, in that really stupid movie with Mike Myers? If you ever wonder why we haven’t seen any more live-action Dr. Seuss adaptations, it’s because Mrs. Geisel forbade it.

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