Of late, fall movie season has been synonymous with J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. But this year, those icons will have to make room for a new queen of adaptations: Nicole Kidman. This continues to be quite a year for the actress who not only nabbed an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours, but is also involved with three more literary adaptations this season: Philip Roth's The Human Stain, Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Susanna Moore's In the Cut. She's starring in the first two and co-producing the latter. And Kidman's not the only star of the upcoming movie season. On their way: new adaptations of works by Tracy Chevalier, Dr. Seuss, Andre Dubus III, Frances Mayes and Patrick O'Brian. And then, of course, there's also the final installment of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. But as for the next Harry Potter movie, well, you'll just have to wait for 2004.
** SEPTEMBER The Human Stain
Based on Philip Roth's novel, starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise, written by Nicholas Meyer, directed by Robert Benton. Plot Disgraced professor Coleman Silk takes up with a young, troubled woman, and Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman discovers the secret of Silk's past. Notable changes Sixtysomething Zuckerman is now forLysomething Sinise. Previous Roth adaptations Goodbye, Columbus (1969), Portnoy's Complaint (1972). What Nicholas Meyer learned from Philip Roth "What I learned from Roth is what I learned from Babe Ruth: The name of the game is coming up to the plate. Home run kings are also strikeout kings, but they just keep swinging." Why Meyer remained faithful to Roth in his adaptation "I once read an interview with Virgil Thomson, who was adapting Gertrude Stein for an opera. He said he loved everything she had written, so he set everything to music, including her stage directions. I felt the same way about Roth. I tried to keep everything." How Robert Benton approached The Human Stain "There are writers you can take liberties with and others you can't. We kept the book in front of us every day. We were continually turning back to the book; it was the mine where we went to look for what we needed every day." Why Benton agreed to make Nathan Zuckerman younger than in Roth's book "Having just done Twilight with Paul Newman and Gene Hackman, I didn't want to go back and revisit that friendship between grumpy old men. I wanted to make Nathan a somewhat younger man so I wouldn't have a sense of deja vu about their relationship." Why we're looking forward to it A great screenwriter and one of America's best directors adapting the novel that is arguably Roth's finest.
** SEPTEMBER Under the Tuscan Sun
Based on the book by Frances Mayes, starring Diane Lane, written and directed by Audrey Wells. Plot A writer overcomes a midlife crisis in Tuscany. Why Mayes thinks adapting her book was tough "My book was a memoir, so it didn't have the kind of dramatic development you need in a film. Huge hunks were left out, but they had to go." How Mayes feels about being played by Diane Lane "It's surreal. She's just absolutely lovely, a fairytale princess, but we met a couple times and it turns out she has a house in Georgia where I grew up. We made a lot of connections, and after a while it didn't seem so strange." Why we'll see it For the same reason Mayes loves Tuscany: the scenery.
** OCTOBER Sylvia
Based on poet Sylvia Plath's life, starring GwTneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig, written by john Brownlow, directed by Christine Jeffs. Plot The tumultuous relationship between poets Ted Hughes and Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Paltrow on Hughes and Plath's relationship "They were incredibly in love. I think that he loved her always. It was one of those relationships that was so full of passion." Paltrow on why she often plays literary heroines "I love literature. I have great respect for it. I don't get a lot of time to read, but whenever I do I read as much as l can. …