“Scratch your own itch,” business people chant as one of their core entrepreneurship rules: if you want to really do something and obtain a satisfying result, take things into your own hands, be motivated and, if necessary, just be that loner who marches to their own drum.
That is true for business dynamics as much as for artistic products: paintings, sculptures, books, songs, films are a bit like sons and daughters to their creators, they wouldn’t want anyone but themselves to interfere with their development, and if someone else were to take their place in the modeling process, they would probably never be 100% happy with the final outcome.
This sentiment is particularly on topic when it comes to the frequently developed cinematic adaptations of novels: imagine you wrote a successful book, you bared your soul and put all yourself in it, you’re very happy with the result, and then they tell you they want to make a movie out of it – you would dread the denaturalization the process could lead to, wouldn’t you? That kind of terror and, maybe, sense of jealousy is what often makes novelists offer themselves (or accept the offer) to be the author of an adapted screenplay based on their work. The only way for them to feel completely satisfied by such a delicate transformation process as the adaptation of a novel for the screen might be, is to put their own fingers on it and be in charge of any possible kind of manipulation.
On this matter, we’ve gathered up some remarkable movies based on novels and written by the authors of the book themselves, aka men and women who’ve decided to “scratch their own itches”: check out our selection of 10 screenplays adapted from books by the same author.
Co-written by Mario Puzo (with Francis Ford Coppola) and based on his novel of the same name
Francis Ford Coppola directs one of the most internationally famous movies of all time, the cinema adaptation of a book written by the screenwriter himself, Mario Puzo. The 1969 novel and the 1972 crime movie tell a story of family and politics and the ambiguities that emerge when the two systems get mixed up. When mob boss Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) dies, his son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly accepts to take over the family business, unaware of how that would have been the starting point of his journey of transformation into a ruthless mafia boss. The first installment of a trilogy, this successful movie will be later followed by sequels “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and “The Godfather Part III” (1990).
“Play It As It Lays”
Co-written by Joan Didion (with John Gregory Dunne) and based on her novel of the same name
The 1972 drama directed by Frank Perry is a faithful adaptation for the screen of the 1970 novel by American multi-awarded writer Joan Didion, author of the screenplay of the movie together with Gregory Dunne. The story focuses on the events that follow the psychiatric collapse of former model and Hollywood actress Maria Wyeth Lang (Tuesday Weld). While hospitalized in a mental institution, she spends her time recalling all the life events that had brought her there, between a troubled marriage and motherhood and some pretty bizarre friendships.
“The Princess Bride”
Written by William Goldman and based on his novel of the same name
The American fantasy film that hit theaters in 1987 was directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner and adapted by William Goldman from his own novel published in 1973. The plot follows the adventures of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who’s determined to rescue his only true love, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), from the awful Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) who stole her from him. On a side note, “The Princess Bride” novel was one of director Reiner’s favorite childhood books, given to him by his late father: the story had such a huge impact on him that he decided to buy the film rights to the novel with his own money and make the movie working closely with Goldman on the adaptation.
Written by Stephen King and based on his novel of the same name
Director Mary Lambert joins forces with screenwriter Stephen King to adapt the latter’s novel into a supernatural horror film worthy of the original story. As a result, the 1989 movie is a faithful rendition of the 1983 book, both telling the story of an ancient Indian cemetery in Maine, whose dead bodies come to life simultaneously with the corpses of an animal cemetery nearby. This catastrophe is thought to have been triggered by some curse and a suspect is soon singled out by the local community: Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) and his family, the newly arrived in town.
“Postcards From The Edge”
Written by Carrie Fisher and based on her novel of the same name
Mike Nichols directs this 1990 witty comedy, self-adapted by Carrie Fisher from her own 1987 novel. The story focuses on the broken and troubled relationship between actresses Doris (Shirley MacLaine) and Suzanne (Meryl Streep), mother and daughter, shaken when the latter is hospitalized for drug abuse. The two of them get even closer when Doris is involved in a car accident and needs her daughter to take care of her. Loosely based on Fisher’s real-life events, the script is a faithful adaptation of the book for the screen.
Written by Nick Hornby and based on his novel of the same name
A story about football and the passion and obsession of its fans, the 1997 British rom-com directed by David Evans slightly detaches from the 1992 novel it’s based on, but only time-wise: screenwriter and author of the sourcebook Nick Hornby decides to shorten the novel’s timeline (1968-1992) and focus on the 1988-89 football season, the year in which Arsenal won the English league after 18 years. The movie and the book tell a love story between two school teachers: Paul (Colin Firth), who loves football, and Sarah (Ruth Gemmell), who rejects it with all herself. However, her repudiation is not as scratchproof as it seems.
“The Cider House Rules”
Written by John Irving and based on his novel of the same name
Winner of two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine) and Best Adapted Screenplay, the 1999 drama directed by Lasse Hallström and written by the author of the 1985 book it’s based on, John Irving, is a touching story of love, friendship, and choice. Young Homer Welles (Tobey McGuire) was raised in an orphanage and has spent most of his life there, training in obstetrics in the clinic of the master, Dr. Larch (Caine). His will to escape the place and see the outside world intensifies when he meets Wally (Paul Rudd) and Candy (Charlize Theron), a couple who came to the clinic to have an abortion. Fun fact: John Irving plays a little cameo in one of the scenes!
“The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”
Written by Stephen Chbosky and based on his novel of the same name
This 2012 movie is set in 1991 and based on the 1999 book by the film’s director and screenwriter, Stephen Chbosky. The protagonist of the story is “wallflower boy” Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy and introverted teenager with a series of past traumas haunting him and compromising his everyday social life. His life seems to get better and easier when two seniors from his school, the step-siblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), take him under their wing and introduce him to friendship, love, parties, drugs, music, and free self-expression. However, Charlie’s freshly built protective shell is not as indestructible as everyone thought.
Written by Gillian Flynn and based on her novel of the same name
The 2014 thriller movie directed by David Fincher stays very close and faithful to the 2012 book it’s based on: novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn revisits for the big screen the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a man whose wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), mysteriously disappears on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. College teacher in Brooklyn turned into bar owner in homeland Missouri, Nick becomes the main suspect for his wife’s disappearance.
The “Fantastic Beasts” Saga
Written by J.K. Rowling and based on her books of the same name
The film series is directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling, who self-adapted her 2001 “guide books” entitled “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” The first chapter of the saga is a movie of the same name released in 2016, followed by the 2018 sequel “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” – three more sequels are currently planned for the years to come. The saga is a “Harry Potter” spin-off, set in the young wizard’s magic universe, but several years before his birth, between 1926 and 1945. The events revolve around “magizoologist” Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his adventures around the world in search of the magical creatures he’s writing books about while fighting against the dangerous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald(Johnny Depp).