Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood’s Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

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A long, long red carpet for Golden Awards for films based on historical events, personalities and the honors bestowed upon them.

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood’s Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

Once upon a time, the big screen version of a popular Hollywood novel was the blonde boy of the cinema. His status symbol is ideal for sculpting. Its best product.

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For three-quarters of a century, at the annual awards, such literary adaptations have been the lineage of such acclaimed literary works as Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dr. Zhivago, The Terms of Endearment, and The English Patient. big stars, flashy production values, and a title with an unmistakable cultural air.

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

But in the last 10 years there has been a deviation. While page-to-screen translation used to be a guaranteed path to awards, today real-life covers, biographies and movies are among Hollywood’s most prestigious creations.

“Real-life stories are almost universal,” says David Klavans, an independent producer who helped develop biopics such as the 2013 Oscar-winning Argo, the Amazon series Masterpiece Legends and the upcoming film Biodrama. George Clooney’s “Coronado High” movie. “It’s something the audience can relate to better. Most of these films are based on forgotten events. It makes them stronger.”

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

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Exhibit A: “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar for best picture and original screenplay in February, centers around a crusading team of reporters from the real-life Boston Globe scandal, which exposed child abuse by Catholic priests. In 2014, 10 true stories, led by 12 Years a Slave, won 34 Oscars. Also, before this year’s awards season, at least 14 biopics will receive awards. These include: “Lion” (about an Indian orphan’s search for a perfect family), “Love” (a novel about a couple who defied the law against interracial marriage in 1958), “Jackie” (Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy), “The Founder” (McDonald’s Fast Michael Keaton as culinary empire creator Ray Kroc) and Bleed For It (after the miraculous return of boxing champion Vinny Pazienza).

Contrast that with the Oscars in 2007, the unofficial months that run from late August through the end of the year. Only five films based on facts, including the Edith Piaf biopic La. Vie en Rose” and director Julian Schnabel’s quartet drama “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” were up against 13 literary entries, including the Coen brothers’ Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” (which won Best Picture and Best Picture of 2012) for Best Director. Academy Award) and writer Ian McEwan’s big screen climax, Atonement (seven Oscar nominations and one win).

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

So what has made awards season so autobiographical over the past few years? Some in the industry point out that Hollywood is becoming more aware of certain marketing realities that help translate “based on true stories” into commercial and critical hits.

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Everything old is new again: According to many golden gurus, modern audiences are happy to find old stories captured on film and find new meaning – often a reflection of changing times and social mores. That’s what’s likely to happen this year in “Hidden Figures,” a drama about an overlooked African-American mathematician’s breakthrough calculations that helped NASA advance the space race.

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

Fashionable look: Biopics are infused with fascinating characters based on real people that actors can painstakingly research and audiences can compare to the real article (like Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Ray Charles, the 2004 film’s soul pioneer). “Jarek”).

Correcting Historical Errors as Movie Marketing: Company-backed distributor The Weinstein to promote “The Imitation Game,” about Alan Turing, who broke Nazi codes in World War II but was later convicted of homosexuality and chemically castrated. Co. A campaign to pardon the nearly 49,000 gay men in the UK who have been convicted of similar offences. In the meantime, ads and billboards are driving Oscar voters to “Respect this man. Congratulations on this film.”

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

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All of this isn’t to say that adaptations of respected literature are dead. This awards season, we’ll be reflecting on the merits of Martin Scorsese’s Silent (coming later in the year and based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name), director Ang Lee’s National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Billy Lean. “A Long Walk at Midnight,” which opens Friday, is based on Philip Roth’s 1997 bestseller, “American Pastoral,” which came out last month.

When Oscar-winning coming-of-age dramas are being massively downsized by studios and lamenting the death of movies “as we know them,” biopics are sure to be more important than biopics. “Truth is stranger than fiction,” Klavans said.

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

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Chris Lee is a former Los Angeles Times columnist who has written about film, music, media and Hollywood culture.

Masterful Adaptations: Hollywood's Time-honored Book-to-film Conversions

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