“Everything Was Wrong in the Book!”: 8 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Film Adaptations

Any cinephile is familiar with popular film adaptations of books and video games, such as The Lord of the Rings or The Witcher. But sometimes, cinema enters territories that are not obvious to itself, turning into films and T.V. series, those novels and stories that are either not so well known to the mass reader or in the original sound and look completely different. Here are 8 films made over the past half-century that you may not have even known were based on literary sources. The films in the selection are arranged chronologically by the year of their release, from the earliest to the most contemporary.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by the American writer Truman Capote first appeared in the pages of Esquire magazine in the November 1958 issue. In December of the same year, it was published as a book under one cover with three more of his short texts – “The Flower House,” “The Diamond Guitar,” and “Memories of a Christmas.”

By that time, Capote had become a well-known, or rather even scandalous, author because, firstly, in his early works, he openly spoke about topics that were taboo in American society at that time, for example, homosexuality and violence, and also used deliberately rude language in dialogues or introduced descriptions of erotic scenes into the narrative. Secondly, in Capote’s characters, one could easily recognize his acquaintances, not only celebrities, intellectuals, and other bohemian characters of New York living rooms, and often shown in a bad light.

The prototypes, of course, were offended, refusing to communicate with Capote and shake hands with him at parties. Some went further: they went to court. This was done, for example, by Bonnie Golightly, who is the surname of the main character of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Her only name is Holly.

Recall that according to the plot of the novel, Holly Golightly, a girl of 18-19 years old, attends social events in search of successful men and enters into a relationship with them – the text clearly hints at the sexual nature of this relationship – in order to get patrons in their person, including in financial terms. The narrator, on the other hand, is an aspiring writer with whom Holly shares her revelations.

Researchers of Capote’s biography and work have named many names among the prototypes of Holly Golightly: Charlie Chaplin’s wife, Oona O’Neill, actress and jeans designer Gloria Vanderbilt, supermodel Dorian Lee, and even actress Marilyn Monroe. However, only after reading the title of the story/film you probably imagined a completely different actress – Audrey Hepburn. And her iconic look: a high chignon, pearls, a little black dress, and a cigarette on a long mouthpiece.

That’s because that’s exactly the eccentric. Still, at the same time, infinitely naïve and vulnerable Holly Golightly appears in the 1961 film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which Blake Edwards directed. Interestingly, the lead actress Audrey Hepburn was much older than Capote’s character – at the time of filming, she was 32 years old. She partnered with the charismatic George Peppard, and the music for the film, including the famous song “Moon River,” was written by Henry Mancini, for which in the following year, 1962, he received an Oscar for Best Soundtrack and Best Song, respectively.

Thus, Capote’s biting novel with acute social overtones and criticism of a hypocritical society fixated on thoughtless consumption and exploitation of the image of success turned into a romantic comedy, over which impressionable young ladies sigh, dreaming of a fairy-tale love story in the scenery of New York.

The lawsuit of the real Bonnie Golightly was rejected by the court because, in fact, it is clear that the main character of “Breakfast…” is a collective image of socialites, actresses, and sex icons of that time, and the coincidence of the name is a matter of chance.

Planet of the Apes

Another excellent example of the transformation of social satirical literature into entertaining mass and box office cinema is the fate of the novel La Planète des singes (1963) by the French writer Pierre Boulle.

The novel is set in the distant future, in the year 2500, when interplanetary and even interstellar travel has become commonplace. It is in the course of such a journey that the journalist Ulysses Meru finds himself on a planet where, for some reason, apes have become the bearers of intelligence and the highest link in evolution, and people, who, on the contrary, have lost the ability to think and speak and have begun to live primitively, like animals, are exhibited in zoos and used for medical and other experiments.

The hero of the novel, Boole, manages to make contact with two chimpanzee scientists, and they allow him to speak at a scientific congress and report that he is not just a man who has suddenly spoken but an alien from Earth. Meru’s speech is impressive, and he is allowed to live among the monkeys as a citizen. Ulysses begins to study the amazing civilization of the Planet of Apes and finds out that ten thousand years ago, there was a highly developed civilization of people on it, but then something went wrong; the human world fell into decline, and apes, usually imitating humans, on the contrary, began to learn and develop incredibly quickly and soon seized power and established their order on the Planet.

We won’t spoil the final plot twist of the novel, especially since it still works perfectly today, 60 years after the book was published. On the other hand, it should be noted that in the science fiction film Planet of the Apes by Franklin Schaffner, which was released in 1968, the ending was changed to no less spectacular but still departing from Boole’s version. Moreover, of course, in Hollywood cinema, the protagonist turned from a Frenchman and a journalist into an American and an astronaut, and the socio-satirical spirit of the source went into the background for the sake of entertainment and entertainment. As a result, Planet of the Apes became an adventure film, albeit in the dystopian genre.

Cinema was a success: those who looked for entertainment in it found it, and those who had a deep meaning and a warning also saw it. Therefore, subsequently, from 1970 to 1973, three sequels to Planet of the Apes were released in 2001 – a remake of the original film. In 2011, the franchise was relaunched, and Rupert Wyatt’s blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a spin-off of the fourth film in the original pentalogy. That is, this series had little in common with the novel by Pierre Boulle well, except that it inherited the key idea of the French writer’s world. Since then, two more films have appeared in this reincarnation of the Planet of the Apes universe (Planet of the Apes: Revolution, 2014, and Planet of the Apes: War, 2017), and the fourth installment, Planet of the Apes: Kingdom, is scheduled to premiere in May 2024.


Few people know that Steven Spielberg’s thriller Jaws, released in 1975, is a film adaptation. And not some old work, but a real modern (at that time) hit – the novel of the same name by the American writer Peter Benchley about the great white shark terrorizing the resort town, released a year earlier.

The writer was inspired to write the novel by several real cases of shark attacks on people, as well as the capture of several predators off Long Island and the coast of New Jersey in 1916.

The book was published in 1974 and instantly hit the New York Times bestseller list (and remained there for almost a year – 44 weeks!), and the rights to its film adaptation were bought out even before the novel hit the bookshelves: producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown received copies in advance and immediately realized what a gold mine they had stumbled upon.

In the director’s chair sat the young and ambitious Steven Spielberg, who had not yet directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones, or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial — all this was ahead. It was Jaws that became his breakthrough and his first blockbuster.

“Jaws” became one of the greatest films in history and a reference for many blockbusters, not only because of the filming of a real shark and extremely realistic mechanical animatronics, which Spielberg used here for the first time, but primarily because the director shifted the focus: if in the novel the emphasis is on the storyline, descriptions of the feelings and thoughts of the main characters, their relationships and the plot is built around the mystery of the death of people, In the movies, it’s a shark as such. The protagonist of the film is a horror that is absent from the screen but is clearly felt by the viewer. After all, no description of a shark attack on paper compares to a huge open mouth full of sharp teeth like sharpened knives, which rush at you from a movie screen.

As a result, Jaws became the highest-grossing film of all time (before Star Wars), won various awards, including three Academy Awards, and played a crucial role in creating the business model of Hollywood, which is tied to high box office receipts from action and adventure films and is still in effect today.

Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola’s three-hour Apocalypse Now, released in theaters in 1979, is a truly Boschian painting.

Hundreds of articles and dozens of books have been written about this film, one of the largest and most significant statements about the Vietnam War in the history of cinema. Documentaries have been made detailing and meticulously analyzing the stages of the creation of Apocalypse, Coppola’s creative methods, etc. Therefore, we will not delve into this jungle now but will concentrate on the fact that the script of the film is based on the novel “Heart of Darkness” (1902) by the English writer of Polish origin, Joseph Conrad.

According to the plot of the story, its protagonist, the sailor Marlowe, recalls his expedition to Central Africa on the instructions of a certain company (presumably Belgian). His purpose is to smuggle out of one of the remote stations on the Congo River one of the company’s agents by the name of Kurtz, who has been sent there to collect ivory but who seems to have lost his mind during his years of isolation and has created a kind of sect, a cult, around him. Terrible discoveries await Marlowe on the way and the spot.

Published at the very beginning of the 20th century, Conrad’s novel criticized the colonial policy of Europeans in Africa. At the same time, Coppola transferred the writer’s ideas to contemporary and painful material for American society — military operations in Vietnam.

As legend has it, Coppola’s co-writer John Milius wrote the script for the film back in 1969, inspired by the words of his teacher: he claimed that no one had managed to make a good film based on the book “Heart of Darkness.” Milius took them as a challenge. The result is a masterpiece of world cinema.

Jurassic Park

With the fantasy novel “Jurassic Park” by the American writer Michael Crichton about dinosaurs cloned for an amusement park, first published in 1990, the story of “Jaws” was almost repeated: Steven Spielberg made a film based on it in 1993. But we can argue for a long time about how much the film influenced interest in the book in Benchley’s case.

At the same time, it should be noted that Crichton initially understood that his idea was good for visual implementation. He wrote the first version of Jurassic Park back in 1983 in the form of a screenplay. Then I rewrote the script into a book, Spielberg read the book, and…

Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster, starring Sam Neill and Laura Dern, was the first film in the original trilogy and the basis for an epic franchise that today includes six feature films, two shorts and one animation, two novels, three short stories, as well as comics, video games, toys, and more. Fans of modern films in the franchise are often unaware of the literary source.

Forrest Gump

A much more telling example of a film adaptation that no one seems to know is Robert Zemeckis’ comedy drama Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright, released in 1994.

Winston Groom’s novel of the same name is about an infantile boy with savant syndrome who, by the will of fate, becomes a participant in important historical events of the 20th century. It was published in 1986 and was ridiculed by critics. The press called Forrest Gump a “heavy” and “clumsy” book. It would probably have sunk into oblivion if it were not for the film adaptation. The film topped the box office in 1994 and won 38 international awards, including six Academy Awards, and subsequently became a cult and the most famous and beloved viewer in Zemeckis’ filmography. On the wave of movie success, Groom’s novel sold more than a million copies around the world, but it was enough for such a “result”: after all, it really turned out to be more than average literature.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Adapting a novel or a novella is a relatively simple matter: there is more than enough material, the plot is ready, and the characters are written in detail. Take it and shoot! It’s not like turning a story into a film — a lot of things have to be thought out, developed, or altered.

Indeed, it is more difficult to transfer a short work to the screen, but the condensed form really gives room for the director’s imagination. Especially a director like David Fincher (“Seven,” “Fight Club,” “Panic Room,” “Zodiac”). In the mid-2000s, Fincher was invited to direct F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” first published in Collier’s Weekly in May 1922 and later included in the anthology Tales of the Jazz Age. The film adaptation of this work had a long history at that time.

The fact is that Hollywood producer Ray Stark bought the rights to the film adaptation of the story back in the mid-1980s. He offered the film adaptation to director Frank Oz, but he could not figure out how to make and make work a story about a man who is not aging but, on the contrary, younger. In 1991, Steven Spielberg was offered the director’s chair, but Spielberg left the project to shoot Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Eventually, Stark sold the rights to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who went on to several screenwriters throughout the 1990s and early 2000s and finally brought the matter to a victorious end. As a result, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released in 2008.

The film lasted 2.5 hours, and this is, of course, a completely different story: from Fitzgerald, the screenwriters borrowed only the idea and the main character, who lives his life in the opposite direction – from old age to infancy. But the events of the film begin at the end of the First World War and continue until 2005 (in the story, Benjamin Button was born shortly before the American Civil War), and in the center of Fincher’s dramatic narrative is the relationship between Button and his beloved Daisy. The film stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.


The latest example in our selection of non-obvious film adaptations is the sci-fi thriller Predestination, released in 2014 by Australian directors and brothers Michael and Peter Spirig. Its literary source is a short story by the American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “All You Zombies,” written, according to the author, in one day on July 11, 1958, and first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine (fun fact: the work was intended for Playboy, but the editors did not accept the story).

We won’t reveal the details of the plot of the story and the film; we will only say that the central idea here is the paradox caused by time travel. In the film version, an agent of a secret service engaged in crime prevention with the help of time travel has to eliminate a dangerous terrorist, Demoman. To do this, it is necessary, firstly, to establish the identity of the criminal, and secondly, to travel back in time and find him before he commits the irreparable.

We recommend watching the film first — after all, revealing the main plot twist in the story for a few pages will spoil the impression of an almost two-hour spectacular movie.

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