Not many people can say their first book was turned into a movie – and only one can say they also wrote the screenplay and the movie starred Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. Author Peter Hedges of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape fame now has another novel, The Heights, out March 4. He spoke with us recently about his favorite books-turned-movies.
To Kill a Mockingbird “The novel is beautiful and the screenplay was by my hero, Horton Foote. It’s just an example of a brilliant book turned into a brilliant film. Sometimes a great movie can overshadow the novel or replace it in the public’s mind, but that novel of course is read widely every year by hundreds of thousands of people and the film holds up.”
Being There “It was 1979, and Peter Sellers was the star. It’s a political satire. It’s about a gardener who ends up looking like he’s going to end up president. Very smart, very funny and very timely still.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest “That’s a very fascinating translation because the Indian is a prominent voice in the book, and in the movie he doesn’t speak until the very end. It’s one of the great films. It’s a fascinating novel made into a brilliant film by Milos Forman.”
Election “Both the novel and the film are quite smart and wickedly funny. What they do so beautifully in that screenplay is the book is told from multiple points of view, and they found a way to tell the story from four points of view, which is not only difficult but near impossible.”
Kramer Vs. Kramer “Probably my favorite book turned into film. Robert Benton, another hero of mine, wrote and directed it. It’s just a perfect film. In a certain way you could say it’s a small story because it’s just about this one couple that are splitting up, yet it feels enormous, it feels giant. Its emotional impact I just think is exquisite.”
Hedges says, “For me, you can feel in the films the depth of character; there’s a history to these people… The characters have been explored deeply by the novelist and then the screenwriter was able to have the benefit of all of that knowledge and that could be carried into the limited time that a movie has to tell its story.”
So what do you think, Shelf-Lifers? What are some of your favorite movie adaptations?