Boiling Point: The Long & Winding Road from Book to Screen

Boiling PointThere are a lot of good things that can be said about Hollywood. It creates tons of jobs, pumps out entertaining movies, makes art widely accessible and helps balance your LDL-HDL cholesterol panel, I’m pretty sure. There is also a ton of bad shit to be said about Hollywood, or else this column couldn’t even exist. Hollywood is many things, but it’s nothing if not extravagantly wasteful. Whether you want to talk about David Fincher’s obsession over every single detail in his movies (details = dollars) or the fact that Jack and Jill cost $79 million to make, probably because Adam Sandler had to be paid twice, once for each ball his comedy is missing these days. There are dozens of ways Hollywood wastes a buck, but the one in the news today is reckless buying of literary properties.

You may have heard that Seth Grahame-Smith has sold another of his books to Hollywood. Unholy Night, which releases next year, will be a revisionist take on the story of the three wise men who are now thieves or something. I don’t know, I’ll wait for the movie. Or not, because while Grahame-Smith has sold three of his revisionist novels, not a single one has made it to theaters yet. You probably heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at Lionsgate or Fox’s adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Heard of them, seen the book covers, but when it comes to seeing any real progress on the films, ha. Never mind. Toss another one of these on the pile, amirite?
Grahame-Smith isn’t the only author to make the big break of selling his book to Hollywood only to watch the wheels spin. Max Brooks, son of Mel, sold the rights to his World War Z like 7 years ago and the film doesn’t have much to show for itself other than some finger paintings. Steve Alten has written several popular books about the ocean’s greatest all time killer Megalodon in his books Meg, and while none of them have managed to make it to the screen, we’ve been treated to dozens of shitty rip-off shark movies that have gone straight to DVD or straight to the toilet. The classic Ender’s Game is currently looking like it’s going to finally be a movie, but with a long history of not being a movie, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

This poses a question: why does this happen? Well with something like Ender’s Game, you have some difficult material to translate into a broadly appealing PG-13 film. But then that begs the question- if it’s hard to make into a movie, why fucking buy it? Watchmen was kicked around for a long time because it was difficult to make and it turns out that when you make difficult movies, they don’t really make a lot of money. Because, well, they’re difficult. So you either have to change the film (boo) or make a movie that can’t turn a profit, which reminds us that some books are just better as books and aren’t meant for the screen.

Well then how about any of these Grahame-Smith books? Or fucking World War Z, a zombie movie? None of these pose ethical, moral, or technological troubles. No, Hollywood is just greedy and jealous. They hear tell of something make a few bucks and they want to make those bucks too, which is why they buy up the rights to books. I’m sure plenty of books have been bought without anyone at the studio bothering to read the damn thing – who cares, it’s a best seller.

Now, to be fair, Grahame-Smith’s books have been sold to different product companies, but it’s just strange they’ve all had such slow momentum, then you throw in all these other books that have long, hard troughs to the screen and it’s maddening. I ask why Hollywood buys these and then can’t get them to the screen, but the answer is sometimes that they don’t actually want them on the screen. They buy books up so that others can’t. Just in case the film does get made and does do well, no one wants to look like the asshole who didn’t buy it. So they snap up the book so no one else can. It’s a $2 million insurance policy that you don’t look like an asshole. Hey, spend two million and never make the movie or spend $120 million and make a shitty movie or spend no million and watch someone else spend $80 million and make $200 million and get fired for not buying the material. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a retarded place.

The authors aren’t at fault and there isn’t much that can be done to change the situation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go past my boiling point every time Hollywood stalls out another book.

Don’t worry, there’s always more Boiling Point.

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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