Amanda Bell September 17, 2012
Before writing his epistolary young adult novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” author Stephen Chbosky was a credited screenwriter and director, having taken his own 1995 film “The Four Corners of Nowhere” to the Sundance Film Festival. So, it wasn’t a far reach for Chbosky to tackle his own material with “Perks” and serve as both adaptive scriptwriter and director on the film. While it might seem like a novel concept for a book writer to helm the story’s resultant movie, Chbosky actually follows in the footsteps of some heavy-hitters who’ve done the same.
Stephen King is a novelist first and a filmmaker second, but he’s been heavily involved with many of the book-to-screen adaptations of his stories. In some instances (as with “Thinner,” “Rose Red,” and “The Stand”) he’s made cameos as an actor, while in others (such as “Pet Sematary”) he composed the screenplay. In the mid 1980s, though, King took “Maximum Overdrive” from the page to the big screen by serving as story creator, screenwriter, and director on the film.
Before delving into the business of screenwriting in the 1970s, Thomas McGuane was a celebrated author but had endured a terrible car accident which gave him something of an existential need to pull away from books for a while. In came in the opportunity to direct his own story adaptation, “92 in the Shade,” starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and his own future ex-wife Margot Kidder. Though it would prove to be his only director credit, McGuane circled back to writing novels again soon after.
Unfortunately, not all writer-to-director stories fare well, especially in the case of Norman Mailer. Having been a succesful non-fiction writer for decades, Mailer ventured into the filmmaking world with 1987’s “Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” a film based upon his novel of the same name. Critics were split over the adaptation at best, and Ryan O’Neal became something of a laughing stock (and internet meme) for his performance in the film.
In 1964, Elia Kazan was nominated for three Academy Awards for his adaptation of “America, America,” a film which he wrote and directed based upon his own book. Sure, he’d already had a few Oscars on the shelf for “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “On the Waterfront,” but having a few nods for his own original (loosely biographical) story was probably a special honor for Kazan.
While many of his books have become films, Michael Crichton directed just one – the 1972 TV movie “Pursuit,” based upon his novel “Binary.” Crichton would go on to adapt “Coma” from a Robin Cook novel and several other feature films (“The Great Train Robbery,” “Looker,” “Runaway,” and “Physical Evidence”) as well as pen the screenplays for “Close Up” and “Twister,” but his own stories were mostly tackled by other filmmakers.
Celebrated poet and author Maya Angelou stepped into the film fold in 1998 for “Down in the Delta” and became the first female African-American director for it, too. She’d previously penned the script for “Georgia, Georgia” in 1972, earning her similar acclaim in screenwriting.
Sure, Joss Whedon is mostly known for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Avengers,” but he’s also a comic book author whose work has influenced one of his films. Whedon, a successful showrunner and director, exercised his passionate love of comic books by developing his own series “Fray” and “Serenity,” both of which were inspired by and influential to his TV series “Buffy” and “Firefly.” The “Serenity” series lead up to the development of his 2005 “Firefly” redux movie “Serenity.”
Check out the cast of “Perks” discussing Chbosky’s source material.
Categories: FeaturesTags: 92 in the Shade, America America, Coma, Elia Kazan, Joss whedon, Maximum Overdrive, Maya Angelou, Michael Crichton, Norman Mailer, Pursuit, Steven Chbosky, Steven King, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Thomas McGuane, Tough Guys Don't Dance