My uncle has been at me again. Out of the blue, he sent me a Facebook message early yesterday:
Obviously I’ve removed his name and replaced his photograph with a stock silhouette image. As you may know he’s a HarperCollins published novelist (his first books appeared in the 1980s) and also writes screenplays. As you probably also know if you stop by here regularly (Hello again!), he has no idea (yet) that I’ve taken up writing.
His message got me thinking about the process of turning novels into movies – helped along by the fact that currently we’re seeing lots about a newly released major film that’s based on a massively selling recent novel.
Happy Sunday! I stumbled on this yesterday. Back on Friday, a 21 year old commentator in Britain’s Independent newspaper shared this Fifty Shades analysis:
Evidently this now needs pointing out: both Mr. Grey and Anastasia are – let us recall – fictional. That means they are not real people. Insofar as I understand it, the books are novels, not biography.
France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.
He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.
The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson’s Comments About Filming ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Are Kind of Appalling
Previously I’ve addressed the book in general terms – although I have not read it; and I have no plans to see the film – largely because as writers we can’t pretend it’s not there. Indeed it’s foolish for any fiction/ romance author to imagine it’s honestly possible to ignore (for the moment anyway) its reach and impact. It’s that 800 pound gorilla on the bookshelf.
I had an, uh, “interesting” phone chat with my mother in Pennsylvania last night. It went generally like this….
• Mother: “Have a good trip back to England. Say ‘Hi’ to everyone for us.”
• Me: “I will of course. Helen spoke to her mother. Everyone seems okay. She always misses Helen when she comes over here for a while.”
• Mother: “Her mother adores her. Oh, you know, I noticed that your friend Carol’s husband, in England, that Helen wrote on Facebook that he’s written a book?”
• Me: [Uh, oh. Gather thoughts, Rob.] “Yes, he did. He worked on it for over a year. In his spare time. I bought a Kindle copy….” [Darn! Why did you say you bought a copy!?]
• Mother: “Well, that’s great to get something like that published the first time you do it.”
• Me: [Still wary.] “He didn’t. He self-published on Amazon. That’s become a big thing now. There are lots of best sellers by people who do. He hopes it’ll attract some interest. He’s not expecting millions.”
• Mother: “Getting published used to be about who you knew. My brother managed to know the right people. Now you can do it yourself. Have you….”
• Me: [Trying to shift the discussion quickly away from my friend’s book, which has that potentially explosive ***Acknowledgement*** to me issue (I don’t want my mother buying it!), and what I suspected was about to be a question from her about my writing something myself someday.] “You know that Fifty Shades book. The one they’re making the movie….”
• Mother: “….Of course I’ve heard of it. I bought it for your sister. And I was thinking, ‘What is this?’ She said, ‘It’s erotica.'”
• Me: “I get the impression ‘erotic’s’ not a strong enough word. [Am I discussing that book with my mother?] Anyway, I’ve read she started out with a blog, writing fan fiction of Twilight, I think. When she developed her own characters and published it on Kindle, she sold like a gazillion copies. I read someone who also said it sold so many that way because women could read it on Kindle sitting next to their husbands and kids and no one could see what they were reading because the cover wasn’t visible!”
• Mother: [After a laugh.] “How things have changed. Hey, you know those people living behind us? They moved….”
Whew. That was a close one. Book discussion concluded – by mother.
I think it was de Gaulle who once said a politician should never lie, but he must be careful about how he tells the truth. Well, whether politico or not, definitely don’t lie to your mother! Just avoid mentioning what she doesn’t directly ask. Or get her off the subject – quick! ;-)
Yes, we’re flying back to London later today. I may be quiet for a day or two. See you on here next from “over there.” :-)
On Thursday morning, Universal Studios debuted its first trailer for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the highly anticipated film based on the erotic novels by E.L. James.
The movie stars Jamie Dornan (who appears san [sic] shirt) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as his inexperienced lover Anastasia Steele….
We don’t know yet if the film will be “decent.” (If that’s the right word?) But the quality of the book and its film adaptation are not really the concern here; those are for others to argue about. I’ve not read the book and have no plans to see the film.
I will say this, though. While you might dream a novel you write will one day find itself a film, if it were to do so that film’s actual quality is mostly out of your control. I suppose the bottom line is if you found yourself paid (especially if you were paid “big”) for film rights, I suspect as a writer you would be thrilled to take the money and run. ;-)
But, privately (between just us here…. and the internet), I’d hate to see my book(s) theatrically ruined.
Writing romance that fits properly into a tale? A relationship that comes across as genuine? One which doesn’t read as corny and silly, thus causing a reader to roll eyes? Especially where sex is involved?
Doing that is massively difficult.
Don’t believe me? Don’t you sit there guffawing. Try it. Go away and compose even a few paragraphs, come back to me and tell me you didn’t cringe in abject embarrassment at what you’d produced as a first sincere effort.
Yesterday I had one of those days. The literary agonizing (type, delete, think a bit, type feverishly again, alter, delete, type more, re-read, consider throwing the PC out the window, etc.) that stems from wanting to see two important characters have an intimate relationship? Yet in the gut also not really wanting to see that happen?
“Okay, friends, what are we going to do today?” Yes, and what a headache I had by mid-afternoon from staring too long at the PC screen trying to figure that out. I needed Tylenol. I flicked through the pages and found myself thinking, “Not bad. It needs more tweaking. But, God, I just don’t know about this.”
Nothing like trying to seek to escape a novelistic corner into which you’ve willingly painted yourself. Welcome to the world of the writer. I must be nuts.
Then again, of course we all know romance is often a bit corny and silly in our real lives, isn’t it?
I’m back at it again. I posted this because I needed a break…. again. No sign of a headache again, though; but give it time. Today’s still young. :-)
I’ve recently stumbled on advice from a blogging “guru” who asserts bloggers are best served by placing their sidebar to the left side. I think his sidebar also says he’s 20 years old. So clearly he must know what he’s talking about!
Fine. I’ve now moved mine from the right side to left. Okay, impress me. ;-)
While making that shift, I had a fiddle with the “Top Posts and Pages” listing. Doing so, I noticed that in altering it from “page views” to “likes,” only a couple of posts manage to make both groupings.
Very interesting. By far, my most “visited” post is, uh, on the Fifty Shades Of Grey film. However, it was also not “liked” nearly enough to make it to the top list based on “likes.”
That’s it: Get the rope. ;-) Many of you clearly do “read” stuff, but you also don’t always “like” it. Then again, of course I know you aren’t always going to “like” everything you “read.” :-)
In the supermarket checkout lane yesterday, I noticed a prominent magazine’s cover pushing the Fifty Shades of Grey film:
A film adaptation due for 2015 release? I suppose that should not be a surprise. After all, the book was a massive seller.
We are friends, and (of course) earnest and serious people here. :-) Let me say, I have not read it; and, indeed, I knew very little about it. But it has been background noise for a couple of years as an extremely risqué story.
In fact, I recall several women I know having referred to it with a giggle (usually derisively) as “Mummy p*rn.” Hearing that, and being a guy, I wasn’t going to ask for details. (Are you kidding?) So I knew almost nothing about its actual plot or main characters…. beyond the “Mummy p*rn” stuff.
After I got home from the store, I finally looked the book up on Wikipedia:
….While he purchases various items including cable ties, masking tape and rope, Ana informs Christian that Kate would like some photographs to go along with her article about him….
Errr. Hmmm. Uh, okay….
Well, I also don’t feel as badly here devoting a post to it, having learned via that Wikipedia page that even one Sir Salman Rushdie has an opinion on it:
“I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.'”
We all know not every book is everyone’s cup of tea. And clearly the likes of Sir Salman are not the Fifty Shades author’s target audience. Also it is perhaps worth recalling that Sir Salman’s most famous work has itself been accused of being “unreadable.”
Fifty Shades’s literary qualities aside, the track record for such film efforts is decidedly not encouraging. So we can only but wish best of luck to the filmmakers who are aiming to bring that tale to the screen. Because it seems highly unlikely any filming of that story can end up “middling.”
The gut says the film must turn out either to be superbly done, artistic and earn movie-making acclaim…. or end up as another, say, Showgirls – another supposed-to-be “super sexy” film (which next year will have been released, ironically, 20 years ago), but which turned out to be a critical disaster and is now considered “one of the worst films ever made.”
Early footage of the film of EL James’ bestselling books has disappointed, with the S&M toned down in favour of romance
It’s not a huge shock filmmakers seem to have gone the “tame” route. Given the story and what they would therefore appear to have been required to put on screen, that is probably much the wiser filmmaking decision. In comparison, as we know, books rely far more on …. a reader’s imagination….