My Favorite Books Turned Movies: Peter Hedges

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?


Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • Kevin

    I’ll bite and say an obvious one: Lord of the Rings. As someone that never really cared for “fantasy” novels, I always thought the Lord of the Rings books had a great story bogged down by silliness. The films strip away the silliness and make the more fanciful elements tolerable.

    • Gandalf

      Silliness?!?! BLASPHEMY!!!! lol

    • Billiam

      I don’t know about silliness, but Tolkien’s stories tended to wander, and the movies strip away quite a bit of dead weight, especially in the first and third entry (the movie version gets criticized for “too many endings” but the book version takes so much longer to end).

  • Sarah

    The Age of Innocence- a beautiful and tragic story that was turned into a beautiful, tragic, and FAITHFUL movie. Scorsese made one of the most faithful adaptations without losing any of the beauty of Wharton’s story.

  • Julia

    I loved The English Patient in both book and movie format. They were very different experiences but I loved them both for different reasons.

  • orville

    Persuasion (the Ciaran Hinds production) is probably my absolute favorite. Of the more recent, I thought The Joy Luck Club was a good adaptation.

  • Alex

    The Virgin Suicides was a remarkable movie that really captures the very strange essence of a remarkable book.

  • Alyssa

    A time to kill
    runaway jury
    deep end of the ocean
    where the wild things are

    • julie

      You’re dumb

  • Nikki

    Wonder Boys. Though the movie left out some details (the snake! Seder!) it really captured the spirit of the book perfectly. And Robert Downey, Jr. as Crabtree is an example of the world’s most perfect casting.

    And I’ll second Alex in saying The Virgin Suicides. Both the book and movie had an earthereal quality about them.

  • ana

    I love To Kill a Mockingbird, and I’ll go along with a couple of other posters and say The Virgin Suicides.

  • Amy

    Probably my favorite is “Sense and Sensibility” – Emma Thompson did an absolutely brilliant job with that adaptation. I also thought that “The Green Mile” stayed very faithful to the novel as well.

    • Clayton

      And this. Forgot this one

    • Celia

      Anything Jane Austen adaptation is usually great. Especially Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility.
      My other faves include:
      Harry Potter
      Up in the Air
      Lord of the Rings
      Bridget Jones’ Diary
      The Color Purple
      No Country For Old Men
      Jurassic Park

      and many others since most movies are based on books these days.

  • Clayton

    Pride and Prejudice (2005)
    Lord of the Rings
    There Will Be Blood
    Where the Wild Things Are

    So far this year, both Percy Jackson and Shutter Island were enjoyable

    • Terri

      I didn’t like the Percy Jackson movie and haven’t read the books. One of my companions read the whole series and was very upset with the adaptation. I think he’s still talking to himself.

  • Bailey

    Wonder Boys
    The Cider House Rules

  • GavinStrick

    The Last Temptation of Christ..this is my favorite Scorsese film–it is a gorgeous, and reverential telling of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel.

  • Mike

    Fight Club

    • Kevin

      Oooo, good one. After reading the book, I never thought it could be made. Then Fincher knocked it out of the park. A perfect adaptation.

  • Rae Lynn

    The Outsiders!!!!

  • J

    Ordinary People

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