The authors who hated the film versions of their books

Ben Skipper
Yahoo UK Movies Features
The wrong man... Dahl didn't want Wilder to play Willy Wonka (Credit: Rex)

When Hollywood adapts a book, there is often a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders to do the printed word justice. After all, they’re essentially turning the imaginations of readers into tangible objects we see on screen, and as descriptive as books can be, everyone imagines them differently.

Including the author. How they imagine the story is often quite different to how the finished film turns out and the journey from the printed page to the cinema screen often makes the original creator furious. Just ask these distinguished literary figures...

Stephen King and ‘The Shining’

King has been vocal before in his disapproval of Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic, but in a recent interview he went into some detail. Singling out Shelley Duvall’s character in particular he called her “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film”.

He also had problems with Jack Nicholson’s celebrated performance as the film’s murderous lead and the “cold” tone. He said: "With Kubrick’s 'The Shining' I felt that it was very cold, very ‘We’re looking at these people, but they’re like ants in an anthill, aren’t they doing interesting things, these little insects'."

Alan Moore and ‘Watchmen’

Comic book legend Alan Moore is a genius – a cranky old genius but a genius nonetheless. He’s hated all the adaptations of his famed graphic novels, from ‘The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ to ‘V for Vendetta’, but has a special dislike for Zack Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’.

Changing the ending of Moore’s tale, which he himself described as “inherently unfilmable”, couldn’t have helped matters. There were issues even before the film came out too that resulted in Moore’s name being removed from the credits, which lead him to claim he would “be spitting venom all over it”.

Roald Dahl and ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’

Dahl was hired to adapt his own book into a screenplay - a level of collaboration not seen elsewhere on this list - but when he failed to meet deadlines the duty soon fell to Dave Seltzer. Dahl’s involvement was only weakened when his suggestion for the role of Willy Wonka was also turned down.

He had wanted Spike Milligan to tackle the iconic part which eventually went to Gene Wilder. Dahl also took exception to the finished product. Speaking in 2005, Liz Attenborough, trustee of the Roald Dahl Museum said: "He thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie."

Other adaptations of his work were met with similar scorn, with Dahl calling ‘The Witches’ “utterly appalling”.

P.L. Travers and ‘Mary Poppins’

Later this year Tom Hanks will play Walt Disney in ‘Saving Mr Banks’, the story of how the man convinced British writer P.L. Travers to allow him to adapt her book ‘Mary Poppins’ for the big screen.  Watch the trailer below.

It was a difficult process (as you’d expect if they made a film about it), but as we know the film eventually happened. Her script adjustments were rejected, she hated the animated sections and believed Julie Andrews’ Poppins to be a “betrayal” of the character.

She would later say the film was "all fantasy and no magic".  



Bret Easton Ellis and ‘American Psycho’

Ellis has mixed feelings about the cult classic take on his tale of veiled insanity and suppressed urges. In an in-depth interview he admitted that he was grateful for the film’s success and described Bale’s performance as “unnerving” and “intense”. However he doesn’t think it should have been adapted at all and took issue with the film’s translation.

“The book itself doesn't really answer a lot of the questions it poses, but by the very nature of the medium of a movie, you kind of have to answer those questions,” he said. “[The movie] automatically says, ‘It's real.’ Then, at the end, it tries to have it both ways by suggesting that it wasn't. Which you could argue is interesting, but I think it basically confused a lot of people.”

Anthony Burgess and ‘A Clockwork Orange’


Stanley Kubrick was a unique director, it makes sense then that his adaptations of famous books differed somewhat from the original text. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is no exception, with author Burgess angry about the adaptation’s gratuitous violence and that the book’s redemptive ending was changed.

In his book ‘A Flame Into Being: The Life and Works of D.H. Lawrence’, he writes that the film “seemed to glorify sex and violence”. He continues: “The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”