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Focus Features

6 Books That Took Forever to Become Movies

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Focus Features

While the current box office is positively glutted with remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and a healthy dose of adapted material, not every book is rushed to the silver screen—some take whole decades to make the jump from page to celluloid, often quite memorably held up in the process. From classic novels to the next big pop culture phenomenon, success as a book doesn’t guarantee a quickie movie version.

1. Dangerous Liaisons
Book: 1782 // Movie: 1959

While the best-known cinematic version of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses is the 1988 adaptation by Stephen Frears, a big screen version arrived much sooner—in 1959 with Roger Vadim’s updated version of the classic tale.

Still, Vadim’s film arrived nearly 200 years after the book was first published, way back in 1782. Though movies weren’t actually invented (splitting hairs!) until long after the novel hit shelves, the book was exceedingly popular (and ripe for reinvention) for decades, spawning stage versions and eventual radio and television productions. It's surprising that it didn't hit cinemas sooner.

2. Winter’s Tale
Book: 1983// Movie: 2014

Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel just arrived on the big screen in the form of Akiva Goldsman’s film of the same name. While Helprin’s book pushes the 800-page mark, Goldsman’s film clocks in under two hours. So, yes, quite a bit has been cut out of the narrative in order to make it a film-friendly story.

Perhaps that’s why it took over three decades for it to fly (on a winged horse, no less) to the silver screen? It may also be why Martin Scorsese, who originally purchased the book’s rights, eventually backed out of the feature, deeming it unfilmable.

3. The Hobbit
Book: 1937 // Movie: 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien’s exceedingly beloved fantasy novel has gone through plenty of adaptation cycles, including a 1966 short film comprised of cartoon stills and a 1977 animated version, but the definitive live-action version only hit theaters in 2012. Peter Jackson’s three-part series will wrap up later this year, and the trilogy is a testament to the continued power of Tolkien’s story.

4. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Book: 1937 // Movie: 2008

A somewhat forgettable big screen outing starring Amy Adams just before she became, well, Amy Adams, Bharat Nalluri’s low-key charmer adapted Winifred Watson’s novel of the same name for some fizzy fun. Watson herself aimed to make something a bit more ditzy after previously penning darker books like Fell Top and Odd Shoes. While publishers originally rejected Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, they agreed to print it if she wrote them yet another drama (Upyonder).

Watson’s desires proved to be sage, however, and Pettigrew was a huge hit. The book was first set to be made into a musical starring Billie Burke in 1941, but the spread of World War II delayed it indefinitely. Instead, Adams and Frances McDormand starred in the film adaptation, which only took another 67 years to make it to the silver screen.

5. John Carter
Book: 1917 // Movie: 2012

One of author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most enduring and well-known characters, John Carter first popped up in a magazine serial in 1912. Burroughs eventually made the character the central protagonist in a number of his Barsoom books—including A Princess of Mars, which was the basis for the 2012 film John Carter.

Extremely long in the making (Bob Clampett wanted to make a film out of the book way back in 1931, and the film eventually cycled through such attached talents as Frank Miller, Jon Favreau, Robert Rodriquez, and many others), Andrew Stanton’s adaptation was a notorious flop at the box office, even though it was meant to ostensibly celebrate an entire century of John Carter fandom.

6. Fifty Shades of Grey 
Book: 2011 // Film: 2015

Sure, in the grand scheme of things—and compared to a lot of others on this list—four years between the release of a book and its subsequent film adaptation doesn’t sound like a lot. But when it comes to something like E.L. James’ wildly popular trilogy, it seems unbelievable that fans of the phenomenon will have to wait until 2015 to see their favorite story steam up the big screen.

James first published her over-the-top love story as Twilight fan fiction under the title “Master of the Universe” back in 2009, and while the final product has changed significantly over time, fans have been eagerly anticipating the film version. It probably doesn’t help that the feature has already been moved once—from summer of this year to Valentine’s Day 2015.

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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.
10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.


Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."


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Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.


You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"


King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."


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King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.


King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.


A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.


Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.


King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.


A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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Kyle Ely
Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.


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