20th century fox / corgi
20th century fox / corgi

20 Movies You Might Not Know Were Based on Books

20th century fox / corgi
20th century fox / corgi

Hollywood often turns to novels and non-fiction books for movie ideas, but sometimes the films are so popular that they overshadow their source material. Here are 20 famous movies you might not know were based on books. [Note: Some spoilers.]

1. Movie: Die Hard // Book: Nothing Lasts Forever

Author Roderick Thorp wrote Nothing Lasts Forever after watching The Towering Inferno, which features a skyscraper that catches on fire. Thorp envisioned a group of terrorists with guns chasing his character Joe Leland, a retired NYPD detective, through the skyscraper’s fiery ash. Nothing Lasts Forever was later adapted into Die Hard with the main character’s name changing from Joe Leland to John McClane.

Both stories feature NYPD detectives in the middle of a terrorist siege inside of a skyscraper on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, but a notable difference is that Die Hard features a young version of the main character and a different ending. While Die Hard includes a happy ending, Nothing Lasts Forever ends with Leland’s life in the balance.

2. Movie: The Parent Trap // Book: Lottie and Lisa (Das Doppelte Lottchen)

Disney’s original Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills was based on a German novel titled Lottie and Lisa (Das doppelte Lottchen) from author Erich Kästner. The novel was first published in 1949 and was turned into various film and TV adaptations from nine countries, including the United States, Germany, India, Japan, and Iran.

3. Movie: Rambo: First Blood // Book: First Blood

Author David Morrell sold the film rights to his novel First Blood in 1972, shortly after it was published. But the property went through an extensive development period; there were various iterations of the screenplay because of its subject matter and themes surrounding the Vietnam War.

The main difference between the book and the movie is its ending. The character John Rambo commits suicide at the end of the book, while he turns himself in to the authorities in the film.

4. Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit // Book: Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 book Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg developed the project and convinced rival studios to loan Disney their iconic cartoon characters, such as Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

The novel was presented as a hardboiled spoof that took place during modern times and featured the death of Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character on the downswing of his career, while Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was family friendly and lighter in tone.

5. Movie: Full Metal Jacket // Book: The Short-Timers

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick adapted Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford’s 1979 novel The Short-Timers into Full Metal Jacket. While both feature soldiers going from boot camp to the Vietnam War front, Stanley Kubrick’s film re-arranges the novel’s structure into something more cohesive and tragic in tone.

6. Movie: Mean Girls // Book: Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence

In 2004, Tina Fey called upon Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels to produce a film version of Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes, and Michaels got in touch with Paramount Pictures to acquire the film rights. Although Queen Bees and Wannabes is non-fiction, Fey incorporated elements of her own high school experience into the screenplay.

7. Movie: There Will Be Blood // Book: Oil!

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Academy Award-winning There Will Be Blood was a loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! While Anderson was a big fan of the original source material, he only adapted the novel’s first 150 pages to There Will Be Blood. He decided to take the story in a different direction, focusing on the self-made oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, rather than the character's son.

8. Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire // Book: Alias Madame Doubtfire

The 1993 hit comedy Mrs. Doubtfire is based on British author Anne Fine’s young adult novel titled Alias Madame Doubtfire. The movie and the book share very similar plots: Both feature a man, who — after a messy divorce that limits his time with his family — dresses like an old woman to take a job as his kids' nanny.

9. Movie: Pitch Perfect // Book: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory

Former GQ editor Mickey Rapkin spent an entire season covering competitive collegiate a cappella at Tufts University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Virginia for his non-fiction book, which screenwriter Kay Cannon adapted into the comedy Pitch Perfect. The film was a sleeper hit, taking in a $113 million worldwide box office haul in 2012.

10. Movie: Drive // Book: Drive

In 2005, producers Marc E. Platt and Adam Siegel acquired the film rights to James Sallis’ Drive shortly after Siegel read a rave review of the novel. The producers originally wanted Drive to be an action thriller with Hugh Jackman in the starring role as The Driver. Ultimately, Jackman dropped out of the project, Ryan Gosling signed on to play the lead, and the film transformed into a character drama.

11. Movie: The Town // Book: Prince of Thieves

Although director Adrian Lyne and producer Graham King bought the film rights to Chuck Hogan’s Prince of Thieves, which followed a team of bank robbers planning one last heist, they were unable to adapt the novel to Warner Bros’ requirements for a two-hour movie with a budget under $37 million. However, Ben Affleck, fresh off his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, signed on to the project to star, write, and direct the film adaptation, which was re-titled The Town.

12. Movie: Clueless // Book: Emma

Amy Heckerling’s teen comedy Clueless is a modern film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Clueless launched the careers of its young cast — including Alicia Silverstone, Britney Murphy, Donald Faison, and Paul Rudd.

13. Movie: Cruel Intentions // Book: Les Liaisons dangereuses (The Dangerous Liaisons)

French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses (The Dangerous Liaisons) serves as the inspiration for Cruel Intentions. The teen drama’s screenwriter/director Roger Kumble moved the story from the 18th century to the modern day, and instead of featuring French aristocrats, he made his characters wealthy and privileged teenagers living in New York City.

14. Movie: Slumdog Millionaire // Book: Q & A

The Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire was based on Indian author Vikas Swarup’s Q & A, which was first published in 2005. The novel followed a young orphan who becomes a very successful game show winner, only to be sent to jail under accusations of cheating.

15. Movie: Death Wish // Book: Death Wish

Death Wish was based on author Brian Garfield’s 1972 book of the same name, with considerable differences between the film and the novel. Both feature a man fed up with violent crime in New York City after the murder of his wife and the sexual assault of his daughter, but the film seems to enthusiastically support vigilante violence; the novel denounces it.

16. Movie: The Thing // Book: Who Goes There?

John Carpenter’s The Thing was based on the science fiction novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., who wrote it under the pen name Don A. Stuart. The novella first appeared in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction, published in August 1938.

17. Movie: Fast Times at Ridgemont High // Book: Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story

Cameron Crowe, then 22, wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story, which chronicled his experience posing as a high school senior at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California. Amy Heckerling directed the film adaptation in 1982.

18. Movie: Silver Linings Playbook // Book: The Silver Linings Playbook

The Weinstein Company optioned author Matthew Quick’s debut The Silver Linings Playbook for a big screen adaptation before the book was released in September 2008. Although Sydney Pollack developed the project, it was handed over to David O. Russell at the time of Pollack’s death earlier in the year.

19. Movie: The Iron Giant // Book: The Iron Man: A Children's Story in Five Nights

Brad Bird’s directorial debut The Iron Giant was based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 modern fairy tale The Iron Man: A Children's Story in Five Nights. Bird took a few liberties with Hughes’ story, including changing its setting from the British countryside during the 1960s to an American coastal town during the 1950s. According to Bird, the time period “presented a wholesome surface, yet beneath the wholesome surface was this incredible paranoia. We were all going to die in a freak-out."

After its release, The Iron Giant won an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Film in 1999.

20. Movie: Psycho // Book: Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock acquired the film rights to Robert Bloch’s horror genre novel Psycho for $9,500 in 1959. The director went as far as buying up every available copy in the country to keep the story’s surprises from the general public.

Although Psycho is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films, Paramount Pictures didn’t want the legendary director to make the movie because the studio felt its source material was objectionable and highly offensive. So Hitchcock put up his own money to help finance Psycho, used his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV crew to make it, and agreed to shoot the film in black-and-white to keep production costs down.

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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Hulton Archive, Getty Images
15 Things You Might Not Know About Jules Verne
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Jules Verne, widely regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction, wrote some of literature's most famous adventure novels, including seminal works like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days. In addition to helping pioneer a new genre of writing, the French author also sailed the world, had a career as a stockbroker, fell in love with his cousin, and was shot by his nephew. Here are 15 facts you probably didn't know about him.

1. HE GREW UP SURROUNDED BY SHIPS.

On February 8, 1828, Pierre and Sophie Verne welcomed their first child, Jules Gabriel, at Sophie's mother's home in Nantes, a city in western France. Verne's birthplace had a profound impact on his writing. In the 19th century, Nantes was a busy port city that served as a major hub for French shipbuilders and traders, and Verne's family lived on Ile Feydeau, a small, man-made island in a tributary of the Loire River. Verne spent his childhood watching ships sail down the Loire and imagining what it would be like to climb aboard them [PDF]. He would later work these early memories of maritime life into his writing.

2. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIS COUSIN.

Verne began writing poetry at just 12 years old. As a teenager, he used poetry as an outlet for his burgeoning romantic feelings. Verne fell in love with his cousin, Caroline Tronson, who was a year and a half older than him. He wrote and dedicated poems to Tronson, gave her presents, and attended dances with her. Unfortunately, Tronson didn't reciprocate her younger cousin's feelings. In 1847, when Verne was 19 and Tronson was 20, she married a man two decades her senior. Verne was heartbroken.

3. HIS FATHER PRESSURED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

While Verne had been passionate about writing since his early teens, his father strongly encouraged young Jules to follow in his footsteps and enter the legal profession. Soon after Tronson's marriage, Verne's father capitalized on his son's depression, convincing him to move to Paris to study law.

Verne graduated with a law degree in 1851. But he kept writing fiction during this period, and continued to clash with his father over his career path. In 1852, Verne's father arranged for him to practice law in Nantes, but Verne decided to pursue life as a writer instead.

4. HE LIVED IN PARIS DURING A TUMULTUOUS TIME.

Verne's time in Paris coincided with a period of intense political instability. The French Revolution of 1848 broke out soon after Verne moved to the city to study law. Though he didn't participate, he was strikingly close to the conflict and its turbulent aftermath, including the coup d'état that ended France's Second Republic. "On Thursday the fighting was intense; at the end of my street, houses were knocked down by cannon fire," he wrote to his mother during the fighting that followed the coup in December 1851. Verne managed to stay out of the political upheaval during those years, but his writing later explored themes of governmental strife. In his 1864 novella The Count of Chanteleine: A Tale of the French Revolution, Verne wrote about the struggles of ordinary and noble French people during the French Revolutionary Wars, while his novel The Flight to France recounted the wartime adventures of an army captain in 1792.

5. HE BECAME A STOCKBROKER TO PAY THE BILLS.

In May 1856, Verne was the best man at his best friend's wedding in Amiens, a city in northern France. During the wedding festivities, Verne lodged with the bride's family and met Honorine de Viane Morel, the bride's sister. He developed a crush on Morel, a 26-year-old widow with two kids, and in January 1857, with the permission of her family, the two married.

There was one big problem. Verne had been writing plays for Paris theaters, but being a playwright didn't pay the bills. Verne needed a respectable income to support Morel and her daughters. Morel's brother offered Verne a job at a brokerage, and he accepted, quitting his theater job to become a stockbroker at the Paris Bourse. Writing was never too far from Verne's mind, though. He woke up early each day to write and research for several hours before heading to his day job.

6. HIS ADVENTURE NOVELS WERE PART OF A SERIES …

A caricature of Jules Verne on the sea floor with fantastic sea creatures on the cover of a magazine.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Modern readers probably think of Verne's most famous books as distinct entities, but his adventure novels were actually part of a series. In the early 1860s, Verne met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, an established publisher and magazine editor who helped Verne publish his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon. This novel served as the beginning of Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of dozens of books written by Verne and published by Hetzel. Most of these novels—including famous titles like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—appeared in installments in Hetzel's magazine before being published in book form.

7. … THAT PROVIDED HIM WITH A STEADY STREAM OF INCOME.

Starting in 1863, Verne agreed to write two volumes per year for Hetzel, a contract that provided him with a steady source of income for decades. Between 1863 and 1905, Verne published 54 novels about travel, adventure, history, science, and technology for the Voyages Extraordinaires series. He worked closely with Hetzel on characters, structure, and plot until the publisher's death in 1886. Verne's writing wasn't limited to this series, however; in total, he wrote 65 novels over the course of his life, though some would not be published until long after his death.

8. HE DREW INSPIRATION FROM HIS OWN SAILING ADVENTURES.

During the 1860s, Verne's career was taking off, and he was making good money. So in 1867, he bought a small yacht, which he named the Saint Michel, after his son, Michel. When he wasn't living in Amiens, he spent time sailing around Europe to the Channel Islands, along the English Coast, and across the Bay of Biscay. Besides enjoying the peace and quiet at sea, he also worked during these sailing trips, writing most of the manuscripts for Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea on his yacht. As he earned more money, he replaced the Saint Michel with a larger boat that he called the Saint Michel II. A few years later, he bought a third vessel, the Saint Michel III, a steam yacht that he hired a crew of 10 to man on long voyages to Scotland and through the Mediterranean.

9. HE'S ONE OF THE MOST TRANSLATED AUTHORS IN THE WORLD …

Verne wrote in French, but his works have always had an international appeal. Since the 1850s, his writing has been translated into approximately 150 languages—making him the second most translated author ever. He has appeared in translation even more often than William Shakespeare. He is second only to Agatha Christie, who holds the world record.

10. … BUT NOT ALL OF THOSE TRANSLATIONS ARE ACCURATE.

Although Verne wrote primarily for adults, many English-language publishers considered his science fiction writing to be juvenile and marketed his books to children. Translators dumbed down his work, simplifying stories, cutting heavily researched passages, summarizing dialogue, and in some cases, nixing anything that might be construed as a critique of the British Empire. Many translations even contain outright errors, such as measurements converted incorrectly.

Some literary historians now bemoan the shoddy translations of many of Verne's works, arguing that almost all of these early English translations feature significant changes to both plot and tone. Even today, these poor translations make up much of Verne's available work in English. But anglophone readers hoping to read more authentic versions of his stories are in luck. Thanks to scholarly interest, there has been a recent surge in new Verne translations that aim to be more faithful to the original texts.

11. HE HAD MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Starting in his twenties, Verne began experiencing sudden bouts of extreme stomach pain. He wrote about his agonizing stomach cramps in letters to family members, but he failed to get a proper diagnosis from doctors. To try to ease his pain, he experimented with different diets, including one in which he ate only eggs and dairy. Historians believe that Verne may have had colitis or a related digestion disorder.

Even more unsettling than the stomach pain, Verne suffered from five episodes of facial paralysis over the course of his life. During these painful episodes, one side of his face suddenly became immobile. After the first attack, doctors treated his facial nerve with electric stimulation, but he had another attack five years later, and several more after that. Recently, researchers have concluded that he had Bell's palsy, a temporary form of one-sided facial paralysis caused by damage to the facial nerve. Doctors have hypothesized that it was the result of ear infections or inflammation, but no one knows for sure why he experienced this.

Verne developed type-2 diabetes in his fifties, and his health declined significantly in the last decade of his life. He suffered from high blood pressure, chronic dizziness, tinnitus, and other maladies, and eventually went partially blind.

12. HIS MENTALLY ILL NEPHEW SHOT HIM IN THE LEG …

In March 1886, a traumatic incident left the 58-year-old Verne disabled for the rest of his life. Verne's nephew Gaston, who was then in his twenties and suffering from mental illness, suddenly became violent, to Verne's detriment. The writer was arriving home one day when, out of the blue, Gaston shot him twice with a pistol. Thankfully, Verne survived, but the second bullet that Gaston fired struck the author's left leg.

13. … LEAVING HIM WITH A PERMANENT LIMP.

After the incident, Gaston was sent to a mental asylum. He wasn't diagnosed with a specific disorder, but most historians believe he suffered from paranoia or schizophrenia.

Verne never fully recovered from the attack. The bullet damaged his left leg badly, and his diabetes complicated the healing process. A secondary infection left him with a noticeable limp that persisted until his death in 1905.

14. HIS WORK CONTRIBUTED TO THE RISE OF STEAMPUNK.

Verne's body of work heavily influenced steampunk, the science fiction subgenre that takes inspiration from 19th century industrial technology. Some of Verne's characters, as well as the fictional machines he wrote about, have appeared in prominent steampunk works. For example, the TV show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne explored the idea that Verne actually experienced the fantastic things he wrote about, and Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea appeared as a character in the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

15. MANY OF HIS PREDICTIONS WERE SURPRISINGLY SPOT-ON.

Some of the technology Verne imagined in his fiction later became reality. One of the machines that Verne dreamed up, Nautilus—the electric submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—came to life years after he first wrote about it. The first installment of the serialized Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was published in 1869, and the first battery-powered submarines were launched in the 1880s. (Similar submarine designs are still in use today.)

In addition, Verne's Paris In The Twentieth Century contains several surprisingly accurate technological predictions. Written in 1863, the dystopian novel imagines a tech-obsessed Parisian society in 1960. Verne wrote about skyscrapers, elevators, cars with internal combustion engines, trains, electric city lights, and suburbs. He was massively ahead of his time. He even wrote about a group of mechanical calculators (as in, computers) that could communicate with one another over a network (like the Internet). Pretty impressive for a guy born in 1828.

But Verne's influence goes beyond science fiction, steampunk, or real-world technology. His writing has inspired countless authors in genres ranging from poetry to travel to adventure. As Ray Bradbury wrote, "We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne."

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