Picture this. The phone rings. It’s a big name Hollywood movie producer. Yeah, I know it wouldn’t really be him/her in person, but humor me. Go with it. So, it’s a famous producer, and he wants to make a blockbuster movie out of your latest book.
What do you do?
Do you do as most would? Say yes immediately, then spend three days in a delirious whirlwind of disbelief, running up your long distance phone bills to the approximate size of the national debt, screaming “Neener, neener, neener!” to every person you ever knew who pooh-poohed your writing skills?
Or do you actually take the time to think the offer through . . . and THEN sign away your rights and do all of the above?
When I started getting comments that my second Wake-Robin Ridge book, A Boy Named Rabbit, would make a beautiful movie, I asked myself that question. Not because I believed it was ever likely to happen, but just because I wondered how I’d react in that situation. Would I even try to salvage some shred of integrity and demand to retain creative approval rights over a few things? Casting, for instance. (The one thing that Hollywood is sure to get wrong 99.9% of the time.)
I’ve thought about it, and–don’t laugh, now–I just can’t see myself telling Hollywood they can take a story I’ve sweated blood over and stick (fill in the blank here with the name of whatever actor is currently a hot property) into the part of a character he doesn’t even vaguely resemble. I think that would make me even angrier than having them change the ending of my story. Casting 5’6″ Tom Cruise as 6’5″ Jack Reacher comes to mind, and not only because the size difference is preposterous. Sorry, but Tom Cruise is not the intimdating force of nature that Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is. (Truthfully, I’m pretty sure *I* could take Tom Cruise.)
Seriously, how important would it be to you that Hollywood gets it right? That they understand your book and your characters, and cast the best actors for the roles, rather than the latest heartthrobs. Do you want to risk your precious story ending up like Interview With the Vampire? A movie that makes me double over in laughter every time I see Brad Pitt and (oops, here he is again) Tom Cruise in the starring roles. I guarantee you Anne Rice’s novel did NOT make me laugh. It’s a shame the movie does.
Of course, the book is almost always better. We all know that. But now and then, there are a few book-to-movie transitions that work well. Shouldn’t yours be one of them? I know it’s easy to say this, in the abstract, but I think if I still had a roof over my head and food on my table, I’d pass on turning over my creation to those who don’t cherish it the way I do.
What do you think you’d do? Take the money and run? Or stand firm, and demand some creative control, even if it meant the deal wouldn’t go through? Inquiring minds wanna know. 🙂