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Authorship in Film Adaptation

Edited with an introduction by Jack Boozer

Publication Year: 2008

Authoring a film adaptation of a literary source not only requires a media conversion but also a transformation as a result of the differing dramatic demands of cinema. The most critical central step in this transformation of a literary source to the screen is the writing of the screenplay. The screenplay usually serves to recruit producers, director, and actors; to attract capital investment; and to give focus to the conception and production of the film project. Often undergoing multiple revisions prior to production, the screenplay represents the crucial decisions of writer and director that will determine how and to what end the film will imitate or depart from its original source. Authorship in Film Adaptation is an accessible, provocative text that opens up new areas of discussion on the central process of adaptation surrounding the screenplay and screenwriter-director collaboration. In contrast to narrow binary comparisons of literary source text and film, the twelve essays in this collection also give attention to the underappreciated role of the screenplay and film pre-production that can signal the primary intention for a film. Divided into four parts, this collection looks first at the role of Hollywood's activist producers and major auteurs such as Hitchcock and Kubrick as they worked with screenwriters to formulate their audio-visual goals. The second part offers case studies of Devil in a Blue Dress and The Sweet Hereafter, for which the directors wrote their own adapted screenplays. Considering the variety of writer-director working relationships that are possible, Part III focuses on adaptations that alter genre, time, and place, and Part IV investigates adaptations that alter stories of romance, sexuality, and ethnicity.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

I want to recognize in particular my colleagues whose work appears in these pages. Their devotion to the task and sustained goodwill have made the completion of this book a challenging and pleasurable campaign. This also applies to editor Jim Burr and the fine staff at the University of Texas Press, and to scholars Arthur M. Eckstein, Martha Nochimson, and Kelly Hankin. I was ...

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pp. 1-30

This collection of essays originated in the observation that the study of literature-to-film adaptation has generally overlooked the actual process through which a source text is transformed into a motion picture. This process includes in particular the central role of the screenplay. The increasing attention to intertextual and intermedial influences in adaptation ...

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pp. 31-34

“Activist” producers and major auteurs of Hollywood cinema have often turned to already published sources for their projects. Their subsequent control over the adapted screenplay demonstrates a dominant pattern of authorship. This has sometimes resulted in their taking the screen credit listing “A Film by . . .” as opposed to simply “Produced by” or “Directed by” or even “Written and Directed ...

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1. Mildred Pierce: A Troublesome Property to Script

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pp. 35-62

The film Mildred Pierce has its origin in James M. Cain’s novel of the same name. Published in 1941, it followed Cain’s successful series of 1930s tough guy novels: The Postman Always Rings Twice, Career in C Major, Double indemnity, and Serenade. Departing from their narrow framework, taut narratives, and first-person male protagonists,¹ Cain offered ...

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2. Hitchcock and His Writers: Authorship and Authority in Adaptation

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pp. 63-84

Alfred Hitchcock rose to fame first as the leading practitioner of the suspense thriller, then as the quintessential Hollywood auteur, even though virtually all his fi lms were adaptations of work by other hands.

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3. From Traumnovelle (1927) to Script to Screen-Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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pp. 85-108

Stanley Kubrick came very late in life to the screen adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s novella, though he had read it and been intrigued by it some thirty years earlier. The arduous process of transforming the novella into an acceptable screenplay and finally into the film, Eyes Wide Shut, reveals Stanley Kubrick’s method of adaptive collaboration, as ...

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pp. 107-110

A second model of screenwriter participation in the adaptation process is the “written and directed by” combination, which places total creative responsibility in the hands of one individual. This model diff ers from the auteur configuration discussed in Part I mainly in the absence of a separate writer. If Hollywood auteurs use their writers to help them fill out their only partly realized ideas of adaptation ...

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4. Private Knowledge, Public Space: Investigation and Navigation in Devil in a Blue Dress

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pp. 111-130

While thinking about film noir in relation to Carl Franklin’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), I have returned repeatedly to the considerable ways in which the film represents Los Angeles as a historically resonant and metaphorically rich location. Numerous critics and scholars have explored L.A.’s historic relationship with film noir, both as a major setting ...

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5. “Strange and New . . .”: Subjectivity and the Ineffable in The Sweet Hereafter

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pp. 131-155

Russell Banks’s novel The Sweet Hereafter (1991) tells the story of the devastating emotional effects of a school bus accident on the people of the small upstate New York town of Sam Dent.¹ In the accident, children from almost every family in town drown or freeze to death at the bottom of a reservoir when their school bus skids off the road into the man-made lake during the ...

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pp. 157-160

The most frequent pattern of adaptive screenwriter and director collaboration since the studio era entails a separate writer and a director (not necessarily an auteur). The working relationship of these individuals may fall under one of several diverse arrangements, as reflected in the individual studies of English-language films presented in Part III. The first four chapters explore either obtrusive ...

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6. Adaptation as Adaptation: From Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief to Charlie (and “Donald”) Kaufman’s Screenplay to Spike Jonze’s Film

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pp. 161-178

No less an authority than André Bazin wrote two essays on the process of filmic adaptation, “In Defense of Mixed Cinema” and “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest.”¹ These articles, and others in Bazin’s corpus of theoretical writings, suggested that filmic adaptations of literary works should be less concerned with strict formal fidelity to the source material ...

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7.From Obtrusive Narration to Crosscutting: Adapting the Doubleness of John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman

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pp. 179-202

Despite the strenuous efforts of the author to interest screenwriters and producers in the property (and the important agreement of Karel Reisz to direct, very early in the process), John Fowles’s novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman came to the screen only in 1980, more than a decade after its publication in 1967. This difficult second birth had nothing ...

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8. The Three Faces of Lolita, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Adaptation

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pp. 203-228

In 1962, the Catholic legion of decency was bound to condemn Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the story of a middle-aged pedophile who marries a widow, loses her, and then becomes the lover of his adolescent stepdaughter. Thirty-six years later, Adrian Lyne’s 1998 remake confronted a number of the same problems that Kubrick faced ...

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9. Traffic/Traffik: Race, Globalization, and Family in Soderbergh’s Remake

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pp. 229-252

This essay considers a relatively rare form of media adaptation, from television miniseries to feature film. The 1989 British television miniseries Traffik scrutinizes the global drug trade through narratives set in Europe and Asia, while North American settings provide the backdrop for its adaptation, the 2000 Hollywood film Traffic. The transformation of the ...

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pp. 253-256

In the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, John Cusack not only plays the lead role but is listed as co-writer with three others, as well as co-producer with two of those other writers. Actors sometimes feel compelled to take an active hand in locating and seeing through properties in which they can star. The small United Artists studio was founded in part on that principle in 1919. Today ...

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10. Adapting Nick Hornby's High Fidelity: Process and Sexual Politics

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pp. 257-279

In its play on the several meanings of fidelity, the title of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel hints at the top two obsessions driving its protagonist: popular music, and winning back his live-in girlfriend Laura, who walks out as the novel begins. The novel traces the reversal of these priorities in the life of Rob Fleming, a cool-aspiring but rigidly opinionated thirty-five-year ...

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11. Adaptable Bridget: Generic Intertextuality and Postfeminism in Bridget Jones’s Diary

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pp. 281-304

In her glowing review of the film adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Molly Haskell delights in the intertextuality of the film and the ways it plays with audience knowledge of the book, its author, and the film’s screenwriters and stars. Following her lead but turning it onto a broader subject, we might momentarily consider intertextuality’s ability to wreak vengeance ...

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12. “Who's Your Favorite Indian?” The Politics of Representation in Sherman Alexie’s Short Stories and Screenplay

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pp. 305-324

When Sherman Alexie adapted his own short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), into a 1998 screenplay, he necessarily condensed a range of stories, multiple characters, and many perspectives into a single narrative arc. In the transition from the screenplay to the film Smoke Signals (1999), that narrative became even more ...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 325-327

Name and Title Index

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pp. 329-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794016
E-ISBN-10: 0292794010
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292702851
Print-ISBN-10: 029270285X

Page Count: 353
Illustrations: 24 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2008