Who's The Most Successful Author At The Box Office?

Ben Arnold
Contributor

James Dashner’s young adult novel ‘The Maze Runner’ is set to make some serious dosh at the box office when the theatrical version finds it way into UK cinemas on 10 October.

That got us thinking about other book to film adaptations that proved successful on the big screen and, more specifically, the authors behind them.

Who’s the most successful author at the box office? How much have the films made? Well, take a look at our infographic above for the answers. There’s also a bit more detail in the copy below.

Ian Fleming - The Bond Series - £11.1bn

Ian Fleming wrote 14 of the novels, which were then adapted for the Bond film series, with Barry Nelson, George Lazenby, David Niven, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig playing the iconic spy. Even in the 60s, the series was earning massive box office takings for Eon Productions, and things haven’t changed much since, though now more of the movies have been penned by new screenwriters.

J.K. Rowling - The Harry Potter series - £4.6bn

When J.K. Rowling was struggling as a single mother, trying to write her first ‘Harry Potter’ novel sitting in a string of Edinburgh cafes, she could not have imagined that her series about a boy wizard would sell over 450 million books, let alone make well over £4 billion when those books were adapted for the big screen.

JRR Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit - £3.37 billion

Pioneering animator Ralph Bakshi was the first to bring Tolkien’s
'Lord of the Rings' to the screen (the first half at least) in 1978, followed more than two decades later by Peter Jackson and his three lavish epics. Despite concerns over the volume of the subject matter, Jackson then took on 'The Hobbit' too. Whether there's enough source material or not, the first two films have already brought in over £1bn alone.

Michael Crichton - Jurassic Park and others - £2.2 billion

Long before ‘Jurassic Park’ (and it’s sequel ‘The Lost World’),
Michael Crichton was writing sci-fi like ‘The Andromeda Strain’, the first of his novels to be adapted to the screen, back in 1973. Rather brilliantly, he was also responsible for the Saturday afternoon classic ‘The First Great Train Robbery’, with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland (he directed it too). But it was his dino park gone awry, Westworld-style, that tipped him from the box office millions to the box office billions.

Stephenie Meyer - The Twilight Saga - £2bn

Four books and five films have brought writer Stephenie Meyer and movie company Lionsgate an eye-watering haul of box office cash. Her novels, following the tribulations of teenager Bella Swan who meets 104-year-old vampire called Edward Cullen, have spent over 200 weeks on the New York Best Seller List, with sales over 120 million and translations into 38 languages. Obviously the films didn’t do too shabbily at the box office either.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster: What The Kid From Love Actually Did Next
The Maze Runner: Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- The Maze Runner Poster Gallery

CS Lewis - Chronicles of Narnia - £1.08 billion

Though a close friend of Tolkien, CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia have never quite reached the same dizzying box office heights as his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Though the first movie, ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, nudged a billion dollars, the two sequels provided diminishing returns. News emerged last year that a fourth film, an adaptation of ‘The Silver Chair’, is being planned.

Stephen King - Various - approx £1.05 billion

With Stephen King, it’s purely a volume game. His books have been
brought to the screen well over 60 times since ‘Carrie’ in 1976, and to the small screen a similar number. It’s tough to come down to a single figure - some films did considerably better than others – for every ‘The Shining’ there’s a ‘Pet Semetary 2’, but a conservative estimate is well over £1 billion, when adjusting for inflation. The biggest grosser of all his movies, though? It might surprise you… it’s ‘The Green Mile’, which made over £251 million at the box office.

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games - £936.7m

After years of TV writing for kids (including an ill-fated animated adaptation of Clifford the Big Red Dog) sci-fi fantasy novelist Suzanne Collins hit pay dirt with her Hunger Games trilogy. The three books, ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’ have been adapted, the final book coming out in two parts, the first due out this November, and the second in November 2015. Thus far, with their lead actress Jennifer Lawrence at the top of her game, they’ve made £936.7 million, and with two more films to come, that number could feasibly double.

John Grisham - Various - £915 million

So far former lawyer-turned-novelist has had his page-turners adapted for the screen 11 times, with three more projects currently in development. Whether its the blazingly star-studded ‘A Time To Kill’ (McConaughey, Bullock, Spacey, McGoohan, L. Jackson, both Sutherlands) or the Cruise-starring ‘The Firm’, there’s no denying Mr Grisham’s books have more than a whiff of the cinematic.

Tom Clancy - Various - £857 million

Even in spite of Sean Connery’s non-existent Russian accent in ‘The Hunt For Red October’, thriller veteran Tom Clancy has coined in over £800 million from the adaptations of his books. Not a bad haul, but that’s without taking into consideration the massive ‘Splinter Cell’ and ‘Ghost Recon’ video games franchises too, which have shifted console games in their millions.

Robert Ludlum - Various - £849 million

Thriller writer Robert Ludlum’s best-known adaptations have seen Matt Damon as a veritable blur of fists in the blistering Bourne series (thought Richard Chamberlain was the first to play him in a US TV miniseries in the 80s). Now Jeremy Renner has taken over the Bourne mantle, while Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio are set to appear in forthcoming Ludlum adaptations.

Dan Brown - Da Vinci Code movies - £753 million

Dan Brown’s best-selling conspiracist yarns in his Robert Langdon
series began their march to the box office with Ron Howard’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in 2006. With Tom Hanks at the helm, it and its follow-up ‘Angels & Demons’ in 2009 cleaned up at the cinema. Another film is due soon too, Ron Howard revealing that work was set to start on ‘The Lost Symbol’ soon.

Lewis Carroll - Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland - £622 million plus…

The first screen adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was silent and British, released in 1903. There aren’t records of its box office haul (likely to be huge in today’s money) but the dozens of consequent adaptations must have proved enormously valuable for the estate of Lewis Carroll. However, there are few figures available, with even the takings for the classic Walt Disney version in 1951 are seemingly unrecorded. Luckily, Tim Burton’s version in 2010 alone made an astounding £622 million.

Nicholas Sparks - Various - £524 million

They might all have identical posters (literally, they’re identical, go and have a look), the romance novels of Nicholas Sparks have featured stars like Kevin Costner, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Richard Gere, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in films like ‘Dear John’ and ‘The Notebook’, and over a few years (his first adaptation was in 1999), he’s become a bankable Hollywood adaptee.

Elmore Leonard - Various - £444.6 million

Crime legend Elmore Leonard’s grimey fiction (not to mention his
screenplays) have seen themselves in the silver screen dozens of times - sadly with varying degrees of box office glory. The most notable, returns-wise, have been capers like ‘Get Shorty’, ‘Out of Sight’ and ‘Jackie Brown’, based on his book ‘Rum Punch’.

Roald Dahl - Various - £376.2 million

Nine movies have been made from the genius work of Roald Dahl, from the dazzling ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ in 1971 with Gene Wilder, to the 1996 adaptation of ‘Matilda’ with Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. But it was Tim Burton’s version of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005 which brought the box office return, making up £287.8 million of his total takings.